Process Hazard Analysis

What is a Process Hazard Analysis?

Process Hazard Analysis: a systematic effort designed to identify and analyze hazards associated with processing or handling of highly hazardous material: and a method to provide information which will help workers and employers in making decisions that will improve safety.

When you perform a process hazard analysis you are seeking to identify all of the possible hazards that exist in any given industrial process and creating contingency plans to reduce risks associated with that particular hazard. A PHA provides managers and workers with the information they need to make decisions that will improve safety and reduce risks in their facility.


What does a PHA analyze?

A process hazard analysis is analyzing all of the protentional causes of consequences that exist throughout a process. These consequences include:

  • Fire
  • Explosion
  • A release of toxic chemicals

During a Process Hazard Analysis, we are also looking at aspects of the process that could affect the outcome. These aspects include:

  • Equipment
  • Instrumentation
  • Human actions
  • Other factors


What will a PHA determine?

When you complete a Process Hazard Analysis in your facility, you are determining the failure points, methods of operation and any factors that could potentially lead to accidents. When you can foresee all of the possible risks in your process you can create contingency plans to increase safety in the event of a failure.


Who is on a PHA Team?

When you are performing a Process Hazard Analysis, you want to have the right team in place to make it effective. Be sure to include contributors and other workers who have knowledge of the standards, codes, specifications, and regulations which apply to the process being studied. With the right team, you can make sure your PHA is thorough and implemented correctly.

Include the following team members in your PHA:

  • A facilitator
  • A scribe
  • Engineers
  • Operators
  • Supervisors
  • Other workers

In most cases, a facilitator is a third-party brought in to help with a Process Hazard Analysis. A facilitator will help provide direction for the analysis, organize and execute the analysis activities. Any team meeting that will be held as part of the study will be led by the facilitator.

What are some characteristics of an effective facilitator?

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • In-depth understanding of the scope and objective of the analysis
  • Independence and separation from the design team (often a third party)

At NGE we have experienced Process Hazard Analysis facilitators and scribes to help your company conduct a thorough and effective PHAs.

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Common PHA Methods

When performing a Process Hazard Analysis there are several methods you can use. Depending on the process being evaluated, and the resources in place to perform the PHA we can use one of the following methods.


The checklist method of performing a PHA uses established codes, standards, and well-understood hazardous operations as a checklist against which to compare a process. A good checklist is dependent on the experience level and knowledge of those who develop it.

What if

The what if approach to PHA uses a multi-skilled team to create and answer a series of “what-if” type questions. This method has a relatively loose structure and is only as effective as the quality of the questions asked and the answers given. This takes buy in from employees in order to find the most thorough answers to create in-depth contingency plans.

Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP)

The HAZOP approach to PHA is a structured systematic review that identifies equipment that is being used in a way that it is not designed to be, and which might create hazards or operational problems. HAZOP’s are usually conducted by a multi-skilled team that studies piping and instrument diagrams. Each pipeline and vessel are evaluated for certain limitations and deviations in flow, temperature, pressure, etc. In order to create a HAZOP, you need to have a skilled team with extra time to take a close look at your process.

Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA)

An FMEA method of PHA is a systematic study of the consequences of failure (breakdown) of certain operational hardware such as transmitters, controllers, valves, pumps, etc.

Fault-Tree Analysis

A Fault-Tree Analysis PHA draws a picture (model) that shows what undesirable outcomes might result from a specific initiating event (for example, a pipe rupture in a pipe rack). It uses graphics and symbols to show the possible order of events which might result in an accident. This method is sometimes used in accident investigations to determine probable causes.


Choosing a Hazard Identification Technique

The method of process hazard analysis used in a specific application is determined through the following factors:

  • Motivation for the hazard evaluation
  • Types of results needed
  • Type of information available to perform the study
  • Characteristics of the problem being analyzed
  • Perceived risk of the subject process or activity
  • Resource availability and preference


What will a PHA address? 

When performing a Process Hazard Analysis, you want to be sure it addresses all of the following issues:

  • The hazards of the process
  • Previous incidents which could have been catastrophic
  • Engineering and administrative controls
  • The consequences of the failure of engineering and administrative controls
  • Facility siting
  • Human factors; and
  • The range of possible safety and health effects caused by the failure of controls.


Corrective Actions and Follow-Throughs

It is not enough for employers to just assure that PHAs have been conducted.  They must do something about their findings.  The employer should establish a system or set of procedures that will promptly deal with the findings of the PHA team and recommendations.  Any actions taken to correct hazards uncovered by the PHA must be communicated to the workers in the area and to any other workers who might be affected.

Follow-up is a critical part of any PHA, yet this is usually the weakest link in the process.  Sometimes recommendations are “resolved” by a manager just saying “no.”

Some diligent companies prepare quarterly status reports on PHA recommendations and include this in their audit program.  Worker safety representatives should be involved in each step of the follow-up.  An effective process safety program includes workers on the front end and on the follow-up.

When performing a Process Hazard Analysis at your company, there is a lot to consider. You want to choose the right company to work with, assemble the right team, determine which method will work best for your process, and follow-through. Doing a PHA internally can be stressful and put more work on everyone’s plate.


If you have questions about performing a PHA or you would like to partner with a company to facilitate your PHA:

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Recent Process Hazard Analysis Projects

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HAZOP Study – Process Hazard Analysis (PHA)

NGE is providing a Lead Facilitator and Scribe as part of the team of appropriate facility personnel to conduct and document HAZOP Studies for their client’s Utica Shale Oil and Gas Processes focusing on a portion of the gathering pipeline including the separator, fired heater, storage tanks, and other associated equipment. The HAZOP studies are […]


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Process Hazard Analysis

Process Hazard Analysis (PHA)

NGE conducted a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) review of the Hydrogen Processing Unit. NGE conducted a comprehensive Process Hazard Analysis in compliance with PSM requirements for their client’s facility which manufactures lubricating oils, waxes, and heavy petroleum products.  The HPU consists of hydrotreating processes which catalytically reacts hydrogen with oil under high pressure and temperature […]





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