environmental

What is LOPA? (Workplace, Don’t Hurt Me)

Like HAZOP, LOPA is an environmental, health and safety (EHS) term that a lot of people have heard thrown around that sounds like a big, scary deal because it’s an acronym. But also like HAZOP, LOPA isn’t anything to be intimidated by— it’s a simple, straightforward way of assessing and addressing risks that has a big impact. 

What is LOPA? What is the purpose of LOPA? 

LOPA stands for Layers of Protection Analysis (also known as Independent Layers of Protection Analysis), and it’s really a way to find holes in a risk management system. Ideally, a risk management program would have multiple layers of protection for an incident so that the worst-case scenario doesn’t have an opportunity to happen.  

LOPA is often referred to as the “Swiss cheese” method. The idea being that you: 

  1. Identify the protections you have in place against a certain incident occurring 
  2. Identify where each of those protections could fail (The holes in the cheese) 
  3. Identify how each layer protects against the consequences that surpassed the previous layer 
  4. Repeat until all the gaps are identified and addressed (Slices of cheese stacked until no holes are left) 

What value does completing a LOPA add to a work environment?  

Frankly, a LOPA has as much value as you put in it. The more detailed a LOPA is, the better off you’ll be. The idea of having slices of cheese cover each other until no holes are left is the foundation, but the specifications of each layer are important, like the hierarchy of control, its reliability, and the independent ability of each control to stave off the consequences of an incident. 

How do LOPAs help improve safety? 

LOPAs push us to see how/where/when incidents will happen before they do, and to create a series of obstacles to stop an incident from happening. They show that the work has been done to keep people safe. When it comes to workplace hazards and risks, we should have backups for our backups to ensure that a facility is as safe as can be. We’re responsible for the lives of the people inside of it, after all.

Another good reason to perform LOPAs is not just knowing that you have backups for backups, but actually verifying that those backups are independent of one another — that each doesn't rely on a previous control to operate. An emergency generator is a control for power loss, and so is a battery backup — but what if you need power from the battery system to start up the generator? You're stuck in the dark.

How can VelocityEHS help? 

There are tools available that make the task of completing a risk analysis like a LOPA easy, like the VelocityEHS Risk Management solution.   

Using Risk Management to record, house and manage all the quantitative data found in a risk analysis makes assessing the results simple. Build your LOPA assessment templates directly from your HAZOPs with a click of a button! 

Operational Risk, Safety Management