394929 The Psychology of Decision Making in Process Hazard Analysis

Tuesday, April 28, 2015: 8:00 AM
Ballroom E (Austin Convention Center)
Paul Baybutt, Primatech Inc., Columbus, OH

Many decisions are made by process hazard analysis (PHA) teams in identifying hazard scenarios and determining if there is a need for risk reduction. It might be thought that PHA teams would always make decisions rationally but that is unlikely to be the case owing to human nature. Various psychological factors influence decisions made by PHA teams and psychological constraints hinder rationality.

Psychologists have studied how people make real-world decisions and the conditions under which those decisions may be unreliable. This body of knowledge can be used to understand and try to avoid erroneous decisions by PHA teams. For example, humans have evolved heuristics, or mental shortcuts, that govern judgment and decision making. Often, people are unaware of their use of heuristics and, unfortunately, they can lead to erroneous decisions as a result of cognitive biases such as the anchoring, availability, representative, and risky shift heuristics. All these heuristics come into play during PHA studies.

Furthermore, cognitive functions such as critical thinking and memory are essential to the success of PHA studies. Personalities control the interactions of people and psychological phenomena such as bias, habits, mindsets, groupthink, and peer pressure influence the decisions of PHA teams.

Competent PHA team leaders must understand the impact of psychological factors on PHA studies because they can seriously impact the quality of study results. Unless psychological factors are managed properly, they can cause scenarios to be missed, risks to be estimated incorrectly, and important recommendations to be omitted.

This paper describes these psychological factors and how they affect PHA studies. Guidelines are provided to minimize their adverse impacts.


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See more of this Session: Human Factors I
See more of this Group/Topical: Global Congress on Process Safety