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published on

October 2022

Make the most of your next facility siting study with 6 smart practices

Understanding building placement and facility hazards is key to developing and implementing smart, effective worksite safety practices. Without the right information, your team won’t make the wisest possible decisions, nor will you be equipped to consistently mitigate risks to worksite personnel and important equipment.

You can and should perform regular facility siting studies (FSSs). A thorough facility siting study provides you with critical information to:

  • Quantify facility risks
  • Develop plans to modify, reinforce, or move worksite buildings
  • Create facility personnel safety and evacuation plans
  • And more

But for your FSS to be successful, you need to understand several best practices. This ensures that your next FSS will produce valuable, practical information and that your worksite managers don’t miss important risk factors.

Define your company’s “tolerance criteria”

Before you conduct a facility siting study, your team should develop and understand your “tolerance criteria.” According to API RP 752 Section 5.3.1, your team must define tolerance criteria so you can compare the results to both company and typical industry results for each facility.

In other words, defining your tolerance criteria tells you what the study results mean and, more importantly, whether they are:

  • Broadly acceptable
  • Tolerable in some circumstances
  • Intolerable

Once you know your company’s tolerance criteria, you can interpret your FSS results accurately and efficiently. Then you can take steps to reduce risk by developing mitigation strategies.

You should also define risk tolerance criteria like the following for your company prior to holding an FSS:

  • Building societal risk
  • Frequency-fatality/FN curves
  • Building individual risk
  • Maximum individual risk
  • Worker individual risk
  • Geographic individual risk

An aerial view of a petrochemical facility

Be thorough when identifying hazards

When first starting a facility siting study, your team must thoroughly identify sources of potential hazards:

  • Fire hazards, such as any flammable material releases
  • Explosion hazards, such as bursting pressure vessels or vapor cloud explosions
  • Toxic hazards, such as the release of toxic materials

As your team identifies such hazards, be sure to perform analyses based on current methodological perspectives. For example, predicting blast loads from vapor cloud explosions or VCEs using TNT equivalency models is outdated.

Instead, your team should predict blast loads from VCEs using standardized blast curve methods. These include the TNO multi-energy model and the Baker-Strehlow-Tang (BST) methodology. For example, results from the testing and research sponsored by the Joint Industry Explosion Research Cooperative are used to ensure that the BST methodology is periodically updated to reflect the latest learnings.

People going on a tour at a BakerRisk testing facility

Assess risks & consequences to people & equipment

To perform a facility siting study as effectively as possible, your team must assess the potential risks and consequences not just to occupied buildings and equipment but also to personnel, including both outdoor personnel and off-site individuals.

Assessing the risk to 100% of your facility’s on-site buildings and personnel is beneficial for several reasons. For example, your FSS can calculate worker individual risk, or WIR: the total level of risk incurred by a single outdoor worker. WIR takes time spent in specific locations into account, as well as location-specific individual risk.

Furthermore, a thorough FSS should include business-critical, safety, and asset-building risk assessments. Not only is this relatively easy to include, even with increased labor and cost, but it also provides key information and results that can be used to make decisions in the future.

One example is a firewater pump house. Such a building might be unoccupied most of the time, but you may need to analyze its risk to know whether the building can be relied upon in a fire-related emergency.

A diagram from a facility siting study

Present risk results legibly and usefully

Any effective facility siting study must be understandable. To that end, one best practice is to specify consequence tolerance criteria by hazard type (i.e., fire, toxic, explosive, etc.). On the other hand, risk tolerance criteria should be specified based on total potential risk.

Regardless, all FSS risk results must be presented comprehensively and legibly. A facility manager, safety manager, or other individuals should be able to look at the FSS and come to accurate, fully informed conclusions based on the data.

Use tables that show the data cleanly, as well as highlight the greatest risk sources. Such tables should further include any locations that are predicted to have the highest risk of damage or non-functionality according to the FSS. More detail and specificity are usually better, provided that data does not clutter up the FSS results.

Use the FSS to make informed decisions – not as a paperweight

All the effort you make to carry out a comprehensive facility siting study is useless if the results aren’t used to improve your facility. Leaving your FSS as a paperweight or a useless digital document wastes time and money, plus leaves your organization vulnerable to risks you could mitigate or prevent.

Therefore, your team should immediately utilize the FSS results to:

  • Identify the greatest potential risks at a facility
  • Identify workable and impactful risk mitigation strategies as part of the ongoing process of safety management
  • Make informed mitigation decisions when needed
  • Make improvements for greater adherence to OSHA requirements

Do not let your FSS go to waste. Use the information you painstakingly collected.

facility siting diagram

Use the FSS to perform future safety studies

Lastly, your team should utilize the most recent facility siting study to perform other safety tests and studies. You should leverage the significant resources and effort from putting together information and conducting an FSS. The FSS data and conclusions can then offer more value throughout your organization. For example, your FSS can support technical safety studies such as:

Conducting an FSS is about more than compliance; it can be a highly valuable undertaking if you follow the above best practices. Keep these in mind as you plan, launch, and carry out your FSS. By the end, your results will be well worth the time and effort. Contact BakerRisk to learn more about FSS best practices or how to educate your staff through training sessions.