Why an independent Chair is important for process safety analysis

Why an independent Chair is important for process safety analysis

A process safety chair is an important part of any process hazard analysis technique and within a process safety management system. This person is responsible for ensuring that a company's assessment of its risks and controls is accurate, effective, and thorough.



Written by

Sohail Khan

The role of the independent chair goes far beyond simply making sure the assessment is done correctly—it also involves providing leadership to those involved in completing this critical task. In this article, Tristan Pulford and Sohail Khan discuss why an independent chair is important and what can be achieved with the appointment of one.

Independence of the Chair

The role of the process safety chair is to ensure that all parties involved in an assessment can act in good faith, without any bias or conflict of interest. As such independence of this position means that it must be free from any influence which may affect the results. While in some instances this is an intra-company role, with the chair not being involved in the project itself, however in many cases the intra-company chair is involved with the project and responsible for closing actions. Some companies may not have or have low availability for a process safety chair internally.  Therefore, the best method of ensuring independence is by appointing an external and independent person to carry out the role.

The ideal candidate will have technical knowledge, leadership skills and broad experience within the industry. Strong leadership is required to keep process hazard analysis teams focused and on task as well as generate discussion when there has been a stall in communication. The technical knowledge and experience are especially important to decern whether a viewpoint is grounded in a technical and engineering basis and not opinion. It can also be beneficial for the chair to have experience in other comparable industries so that best practices can be shared. They should also have strong written and oral communication skills, as well as an ability to make complex decisions in a timely manner while working with people from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences who may have different perspectives on issues at hand during an assessment.

An experienced chair can reduce risk profile

The knowledge and experience that a chair has allows for a thorough and efficient examination of the hazards and ensures that all members of the team can provide input into both the identification of any hazards but also the mitigation of those risks. A good chair can guide the team through the process, whilst providing input about potential measures used in the sector or other industries which may provide for safe remediation.

The process safety chair must have demonstrated knowledge in several technical areas such as mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and mechanical systems and process design.

This is because they will be required to review the design of processes related to the construction and operation of equipment used within your organisation.

Where there are disagreements or multiple options the chair can also guide the team into further research or depending on their remit make the decision about what actions and recommendations are most appropriate for the process risk under review. The process safety chair should also be capable of leading others through difficult situations where there isn’t always clear agreement on the priority of the next steps as everyone agrees there must be action taken nonetheless because lives could be dependent on the urgency of action completion.

Finally, the chair should have a good understanding of the regulations, both health and safety, as well as environmental, which ensures that the regulatory requirements are met.

An independent chair offers many benefits

The role of an independent chair is to provide an unbiased and objective perspective on the process safety assessment. This ensures that any biases are removed, allowing you to get a more accurate picture of your company’s safety culture and identify areas where improvements can be made.

An independent chair also helps reduce groupthink, which occurs when everyone in a group agrees without fully considering other opinions or viewpoints. By having someone who isn’t part of your organization act as a chair, you’ll increase diversity among opinions which leads to more free-flowing ideas resulting in better output decision making overall.

Finally, having an independent chair will improve the quality of both your report and final recommendations by making sure that not all discussions and viewpoint are from vocal participants and there is contribution from all during their review process.


We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of the role of an independent chair in process hazard analysis. If you have the need for experienced and independent chairs for your process hazard analysis such as HAZOPs, HAZIDs, LOPA studies, Bowties etc, then please do not hesitate to contact us.

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