Incident Investigation: A Key Element in Effective Process Safety

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Preventing major incidents is what process safety is all about. Incident investigation is a powerful prevention tool in the process safety portfolio. It has been plagued, however, by misinterpretations of Heinrich’s pyramid, which misconstrue the relationship between minor incidents and full-blown catastrophes.

A corrective view of this misunderstanding lays bare the value of investigating incidents and near misses, and demonstrates how the results of these investigations can be used as drivers for process safety risk reduction.
Heinrich’s pyramid has been very popular for a century as a tool to describe the numerical relationship between incidents with varying degrees of severity. The correlation can even be extrapolated into process safety, considering major incidents. The numerical correlation between the different severity levels is useful to describe reality, but cannot be used as a driver to change it.
A sound organizational process safety system is key in reducing the risk of a catastrophic event to tolerable levels.
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