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Hazard Identification Step of Disaster Risks Reduction (DRR): Methods, Techniques and Tools (Part 1)

Endy is a DRMDS student and had worked extensively in hazard identification, hazard and risk assessment and vulnerability studies.

Hazard Identification and Systems

Hazard identification is an important step in disaster risks reduction. In my earlier article, Hazard Identification: A Cornerstone in Disaster Risks Reduction (DRR) Strategy, I referred to hazard identification as the cornerstone of disaster risks reduction (DRR) and disaster risks management (DRM), but a proper hazard identification cannot be achieved without the deployment of certain methods, techniques and tools.

In this essay, I shall discuss extensively these methods, techniques and tools used in hazard identification phase of disaster risks reduction. For ease of read and to avoid too long an article, I have divided the article into two parts (part 1 and 2).

First and foremost, it is important to call to mind that hazard occurs in systems, processes, environment as well as among people or equipment’s component parties. This is because all system or operation that give rise to hazard involves:

  • Operators or people
  • Procedures or processes
  • Equipment or tools
  • Products, and
  • The environment where the operation is taking place.

These five components classified the elements to be consider in hazard identification process into; operational, functional, process or product as well as situation or scenario-based. Hence, hazards identification and the choice of hazards identification techniques or tools depends largely on the definition of system, operation, environment or products and the interactions between these systems or processes and people.

Systems, processes or environment definition is the defining point in choosing a technique, tool or method for hazard identification operation and it also in some ways defines the technique, approach, method or tool.

Hazard Identification: A Cornerstone in Disaster Risks Reduction (Drr) Strategy

Erosion Hazard in Residential Area In Minna


Hazard Identification Checklist (HIC)

Hazard identification checklist (HIC) is technique, tool and method in hazard identification that derived list of hazards (past or anticipated) base on past knowledge, experience or the expert knowledge of the environment or the system under the study. The approach or method involves the use of a systematic tool called checklist as a hazard identification or hazard survey guide.

Some of the advantages of this technique or method include the fact that they are:

  1. It contains an outline of all possible hazards or problems within an environment or a system.
  2. Easy to use by non-experts, even those that maybe unfamiliar with the environment or system.
  3. Checklists always capture a wide range of hazard that can possibly arise from an operation, a process and/or an environment.
  4. The makes overlooking of common and obvious problems or hazards difficult.

The disadvantages of the technique include:

  1. Its limitation in novel systems.
  2. It undermines the power of imagination in hazard identification processes
  3. It is a predetermined process and can easily overlooked hazards that were not contained or captured on the checklist.
  4. It requires extensive knowledge of a system or environment to construct the checklist and experts input which might not be available is required.
  5. It is not or cannot be used for diagnostic or analytical hazards.

The technique can be used in environmental hazard identification, extensively understood systems or processes and standardized operations hazards studies. Its use in novel, analytical or chemical qualitative hazards detection is grossly limitation.

Hazards Identification Checklist


Brainstorming Technique (BT)

The brainstorming technique, BT, also known as active imaginative technique (AIT) is a hazard identification method that relies extensively on the use of imagination or brainstorming in group discussion for hazard identification of efforts. Some experts also referred to it as troubleshooting technique (TT).

The BT, AIT or TT is the hazard identification method that involves an unlimited, unbounded and limitless, but facilitated use of imagination by individual or group of experts in hazards identification exercise.

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The method can be used as aid to other methods or techniques, especially in pre-session or preparatory phase of hazards identification planning or exercise. In such a case of pre-session, the facilitator prepares prompts ahead of the group discussion and allowed each member of the group to actively come up with ideas once a thread is initiated. There are usually no rigid rules as regard to what should be accepted or discarded.

The beauty of BT, AIT or TT is that members contributions are recorded unchallenged and/or uncriticized as the discussion progresses. But at the end of the session, opinions can be voted for in order to arrive at what is best for the team. The technique create environment for experts and non-experts to feel comfortably equal and can be used in drafting a hazard checklist.

Top advantages of the method include:

  1. Key stakeholder involvement or participation;
  2. Wider applicability to a range of systems, processes, environment and/or procedures;
  3. Relatively easy and quick to undertake;
  4. Good in identifying novel hazards in new or old systems; and
  5. It has the possibility of expanding knowledge and understanding of hazards as well as their possible consequences.

The major disadvantage of brainstorming method of hazard identification involves:

  1. Over-reliance on the skill of the facilitators;
  2. Susceptibility to group dynamics;
  3. It is very unstructured and can lead to non-comprehension;
  4. Depends heavily on the expertise level or profile of the participants; and
  5. If not well facilitated or coordinated, the method can lead to argument and even fight.

Hazards and Applicable Method or Detection Techniques

Hazard types, Suitable Method of Identification and Advantage

Hazard typesApplicable methods or techniquesAdvantages

Future hazards

Future Aviation Safety Team Method, Structured What-if (SWIFT), Failure modes and effects Analysis and brainstorming techniques

Ability to provide insights into future situation. Or in other words, ability to create hazards or hazardous probability.

Situational analysis

Structured What-if (SWIFT)

It's able or help to create a scenerio

Environmental or visible hazard

Checklist, brainstorming and dynamic techniques

Ability to identify hazards based on existing or wider hazards knowledge

Operation or system hazards

Hazard operability, brainstorming, failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), Structured What-if (SWIFT) and Dynamic methods

Ability to provide system-based analysis

Method Impacts

Methods influence outcomes. Methods decide whether or not results of processes are reliable or trustworthy.

— Endurance AUF Noble

Flood/Erosion Prone Terrain


Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) Technique

The hazard and operability, HAZOP, is a technique in hazard identification and assessment that employs the use of guidewords and deviations. The technique is well-structured and systematic; and may require breakdown of large systems into smaller subunits or subsystems with unique and well-defined functional process flows.

HAZOP relied on detailed description of the system or its subunits that is/are subject to discussion by a group of multi-disciplinary experts using a combination of guidewords against deviations. It is similar to brainstorming because it is facilitated, system focused, system specific and involves rigorous or active imaginative dynamics. Its practical applications are commonly in complex operations and/or processes.

Advantages of HAZOP includes:

  1. It is rigorous and systematic;
  2. It involves crossbreeding of views from multi-disciplinary experts;
  3. It creates a detailed auditable record of hazard identification process;
  4. Though heavily system specific or system focused, it can be applied to a wide range of systems;
  5. It is an open and a creative technique.

The five foremost disadvantages of hazard operability (HAZOP) includes:

  1. Rely heavily on the skill of the facilitator or HAZOP chairman;
  2. It is expensive and time consuming;
  3. May require considerable amount of pre-session or preparatory time;
  4. It limits imaginative thinking since guidewords and deviations are used; and finally
  5. It may omit certain kinds of hazards.

Hazard operability cannot be used in environmental or non-process hazard identification. This is because operability has to do with operations as well as processes which are majorly factory or machine based operations.

In the next article, I will explain the other methods of hazard identification techniques and/or tools. If this article was helpful to you, you might want to see Hazard Identification: A Cornerstone in Disaster Risks Reduction (DRR) Strategy and Disaster Risks Reduction: Why Hazard Identification Should Be a Central Science

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Ajodo Endurance Uneojo

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