About This Project

Major Industrial Hazards

In 1986 there were pressures in Australia for more visible control of industry and industrial development. This followed a worldwide sociological trend and arose partly as an expression of the public’s expectancy of increased longevity and quality of life, and partly as a natural reaction to the news media’s saturation coverage of major incidents anywhere in the world.

Hazard analysis techniques evolved in the nuclear and aerospace industries, but had developed into their current form over some 10‑20 years of use in the European oil, gas and petrochemical industry. Although some Australian organisations had been using the relatively new techniques of quantitative risk assessment (QRA) for several years, it appeared both timely and consistent with Warren Centre objectives, to bring together a project team to exchange know‑how and ensure that the best of modern technology is available to a wider section of the industrial community in Australia.


The objectives of the project were to examine how hazards associated with the chemical and related industries were evaluated and controlled. Specifically, to:

  • Review the most suitable methods of identifying hazards, calculating the consequences and determining the community risk;
  • Compare the hazard control legislation developed or foreshadowed in Australia and overseas and to review its effectiveness;
  • Develop the most appropriate means of hazard control for process sites and distribution systems consistent with Australian conditions and expertise.

Industries falling into the “hazardous” category included any process industries, such as chemical, petrochemical, or pharmaceutical with the potential to cause serious fire, explosive or toxic incidents.


In identifying the range of appropriate analysis methodologies, the project team concluded it was necessary to regard the range of safety methodologies available as a safety toolbox that contained:

  • Experience, codes, checklists, records, databases and audits, all of which should be regarded as reactive, that is as a response to observed incidents;
  • HAZOP, which should be applied at the detailed design stage after experience, codes, checklists and so on had been fully deployed;
  • Failure mode and event analysis (FMEA) providing the potential to give detailed insights into complex control and safety systems, but which was little used at the time in the chemical industry;
  • Fault trees that gave estimates of overall system failure rates for novel complex systems, historical record and failure databases, which should be used where possible.

As a consequence of this project, industry adopted new practices that demonstrated increasing awareness of a distinctly different approach:

  • It recognised the field of major hazards as a distinct sub-section within occupational health and safety (OHS), with characteristics requiring a new approach to management distinct from that of OHS
  • The New South Wales Department of Planning developed a new risk and hazard assessment unit which was placed under the control of a deputy director. This action strongly influenced other states to develop similar capabilities
  • The project markedly influenced state and federal government occupational health and safety legislation An industry-sponsored chair in risk engineering was established in the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Sydney, the first of its kind in Australia
  • It made relevant industries, especially in New South Wales, aware of the successful methodologies for hazard assessment, monitoring and reduction, which thus facilitated their implementation

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