Common Problems in Pilot Plant and Laboratory Hazard Analysis | AIChE

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Common Problems in Pilot Plant and Laboratory Hazard Analysis


Avoid these common problems during a research hazard analysis and risk assessment (HARA) to effectively evaluate hazards in pilot plant and laboratory operations.

Moving from small-scale laboratory operations to larger-scale pilot plant operations increases the potential risks at each step. Personnel are needlessly placed at risk when a hazard analysis and risk assessment (HARA) does not adequately analyze and evaluate the risks. HARA, also referred to as hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA), can be part of a larger process hazard analysis (PHA) or it can be applied to any research activity that is too small for a PHA. Most pilot plant and laboratory operations are too small to be covered by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) process safety management (PSM) rules unless they are co-located with a manufacturing site that is covered.

Similar to a PHA, a HARA should carefully review the operation to determine any potential hazards, develop an assessment of the magnitude and frequency of hazards, and evaluate the resulting risk (usually against the organization’s risk matrix). In a PHA, these general steps are followed regardless of the type of methodology used, e.g., a hazard and operability review (HAZOP), a what-if analysis, a fault tree analysis, or an event tree analysis.

HARA for research activities is often a challenging process. While the quantities of hazardous materials and the scale of the equipment are much smaller than process units, the proximity of the operators, the lack of established process knowledge, and the use of new equipment and processes create significant challenges in evaluating hazards. Applying plant-scale HARA methodologies to these research operations may not be as effective for many reasons, including insufficient information, personnel who are less experienced in HARA, and the inherent uncertainties in research. As a result, research HARAs are often less rigorous and comprehensive.

This article focuses on ten of the most common problems encountered in HARAs for pilot plants, laboratories, and other research operations. Understanding the most common problems can help ensure that these issues do not prevent the HARA from achieving its goal of improving safety and preventing accidents.


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