Effectively evaluating risks under degraded operating conditions - issue 258

Issue Number: 258


A degraded situation is merely an initial phase that could lead to an accident with serious consequences.
“Operating in a degraded mode” refers to a condition during which operations are ongoing despite there being no access to all necessary or normally expected functional resources upon completion of the corresponding risk analysis, whether such resources are organisational or technical.
It is essential for a facility operator to identify “deviations” that serve to degrade a situation in order to respond, by means of a well-informed risk analysis, in a way that makes it possible to implement appropriate compensatory measures.
In some cases however, this deviation becomes “acceptable” for the operator, who exhibits what experts in technological risks call the normalisation of deviation, which means accepting a relatively severe risk that is perceived to be highly unlikely to occur when compared with the immediate benefits of this normalisation (e.g. smaller investments in safety, less disturbance to production schedules, no time lost treating this risk).
This paper outlines how process deviations become normalised and can often result in unsafe process conditions.

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).