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Sam Mannan's Safety Triad: a framework for risk assessment

In a paper published in the latest issue of the Process Safety and Environmental Protection Journal, Michael O'Connor, Hans J.Pasman, and William J.Rogers from the TEES Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center, look at the use of Sam Mannan's Safety Triad in organizational protection.


The late Dr. Sam Mannan promoted in his last year the concept of the Safety Triad as a basis for effective process safety. As he mentioned himself, nobody will be surprised that this triad consists of Prevention, Mitigation, and Response. If everything were perfect an accident would not occur, but in hindsight after an accident experience teaches that at least one of these pillars of the triad is missing or defective. Also, given the recent hurricane Harvey experience in the Houston region, socio-technical associated hazard threats emerge not only from inside a plant but can be external: NaTech or technological accidental occurrences evoked by natural forceful events.

Hence to be acceptably safe, the robustness and reliability of the triad components must be well designed, and their performance over time must be periodically verified. This objective supposes a risk-based approach both for design and for reliable operation. However, risk assessment itself is fallible. Over the years it has been shown that there are many limitations, but fortunately during the last few years we have seen an advent of new approaches, methods, and techniques to perform a more realistic scenario definition of what can go wrong, enabling to cope with uncertainties in models and parameter values, to analyze the risk dynamics of situations, such as reliability and availability degradation, but also process risk evolving in continuous processes. In all this, not only the technical aspects but also the associated human and organizational factors must be included. The latter dominate the scene in many situations. Last but not least is the concept of resilience in case risks are overlooked due to lack of knowledge or even to the notorious ‘black swan’ incidents. Preparing for unexpected events should provide not only error tolerant design but early warning agility, capability to improvise, and means to recover operations. It is business continuity that will be at stake!

The paper elaborates on both the triad and Sam Mannan’s view on risk assessment.

More details.

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