Analysis of the impact of a pandemic on the control of the process safety risk in major hazards industries using a Fault Tree Analysis approach.
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The control of the risks associated with major hazard events is critical to the safe and continuous operation of the process industry. Over the last decades, the process industry has been successful at establishing and implementing robust Process Safety Management (PSM) systems to prevent and mitigate the consequences of such major hazard events. While there exist some industry guidelines developed relatively recently for events initiated by natural disasters and security-related threats, for initiating events like outbreaks of pathogens and pandemics, there is currently a clear lack of understanding of the impact of the restrictions and disruption caused by a pandemic on the ability of companies operating major hazard facilities to keep controlling the risks associated to their hazardous operations. Moreover, there is no industry guideline on how to account for such an impact in PSM systems for process safety hazards. The recent COVID-19 outbreak caused serious disruptions to normal operations that have challenged industry in their ability to control risks. The objective of this paper is to perform an analysis of the impact of a pandemic situation on the implementation of selected elements of PSM systems related to the identification and evaluation of the risks of a major hazard and their control. The approach chosen involves the analysis of the root causes of the failure of the selected PSM elements using a Fault Tree Analysis method. The findings provide the first steps in the establishment of recommendations for the upgrade of PSM systems to face events such as pandemics.