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The Process Safety Professional. Part 8: Multi-Lingual HAZOPs
Process hazards analyses — particularly HAZOPs (Hazard and Operability Studies) — often use complex language. This means that the discussion can be difficult to follow, particularly for people who have a different first language from the other team members. The following string of hazards-related questions is an illustration of this difficulty.
“What could happen?”
“What would be the consequences?”
“What should we do about it?”
The could-would-should construct is tricky, and can be difficult to understand.
Your author was once asked to lead a HAZOP team that had members from Venezuela, the United States and Germany. The official language of the HAZOP was English, and the scribe recorded the notes in that language. However, some of the team members were not fluent in English. Therefore, we decided to organize the HAZOP as follows.
The team leader would pose the deviation question in English such as, “Could we have reverse flow through this compressor?
In most cases there would be minimal discussion, and the team would move on. However, if someone did have a concern, he or she could call a “language timeout”, rather like a quarterback in a game of American Football.
During the course of the timeout (which usually lasted for around five minutes) the team members broke into language groups, and then discussed the identified hazard using the subtleties of their own language (Spanish or German or English). At the end of the timeout, each team reported their concerns and findings — in English — to the group as a whole.
Ironically, far from detracting from the quality of the analysis, this ‘language timeout’ method actually enhanced the quality of the discussion because it forced everyone to slow down and to think things through. It effectively short-circuited the, “Oh, come on! That’s no big deal — let’s get on with it!” attitude sometimes observed in experienced (and bored) analysis teams. This may be one reason that the team identified a very high-risk hazard that had never been considered before.
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