Home > Articles

This chapter is from the book

1-13 Inherently Safer Design

Section 1-11, “Protecting Against Hazards: Safeguards,” described how hazards are protected with safeguards to prevent initiating events from propagating into more serious incidents with consequences. These safeguards add considerable cost to the process and also require testing and maintenance—and even with these actions, the safeguards can still fail.

If we could design a process with fewer hazards, then the process would be simplified, and the safeguards reduced. This is the essence of inherently safer design—to eliminate hazards rather than to provide complex safeguard hierarchies around the hazards. An inherently safer plant uses the elimination of hazards to prevent accidents rather than depending on control systems, interlocks, redundancy, special management systems, complex operating instructions, or elaborate procedures. Inherently safer plants are tolerant of errors; are generally cost-effective; and are simpler, easier to operate, and more reliable.

Table 1-20 provides examples of the four inherently safer design strategies: minimize, substitute, moderate, and simplify. Other references12 provide more detailed strategies, but many of these additional strategies can be included in the four shown in the table. The four strategies listed in Table 1-20 are the traditional strategies, though they might go by other names (shown in parentheses in the table).

Table 1-20 Inherently Safer Design Strategies


Example applications

Minimize (intensification)

Replace a large batch reactor with a smaller continuous reactor.

Reduce storage inventory of raw materials.

Improve management and control to reduce inventory of hazardous intermediate chemicals.

Reduce process hold-up.

Substitute (substitution)

Use mechanical pump seals instead of packing.

Use a welded pipe rather than a flanged pipe.

Use solvents that are less hazardous.

Use chemicals with higher flash point temperatures, boiling points, and other less hazardous properties.

Use water as a heat transfer fluid instead of hot oil.

Moderate (attenuation and limitation of effects)

Reduce process temperatures and pressure.

Use a vacuum to reduce the boiling-point temperature.

Refrigerate storage vessels to reduce the vapor pressure of liquids.

Dissolve hazardous material in a nonhazardous solvent.

Operate at conditions where reactor runaway is not possible.

Locate control rooms remotely from the process to reduce impacts of accidents.

Provide adequate separation distance from process units to reduce impacts of accidents.

Provide barriers to reduce impacts of explosions.

Provide water curtains to reduce downwind concentrations.

Simplify (simplification and error tolerance)

Reduce piping lengths, valves, and fittings.

Simplify piping systems and improve ability to follow the pipes within them.

Design equipment layout for easy and safe operation and maintenance.

Select equipment that requires less maintenance.

Select equipment with higher reliability.

Label process equipment—including pipelines—for easy identification and understanding.

Design control panels and displays that are easy to comprehend.

Design alarm systems to provide the operators with critical information.

The minimize strategy entails reducing the hazards by using smaller quantities of hazardous materials in the process. When possible, hazardous materials should be produced and consumed on site—this minimizes the storage and transportation of hazardous raw materials and intermediates.

The substitute strategy entails replacing hazardous materials with less hazardous materials. For example, a nonflammable solvent could replace a flammable solvent.

The moderate strategy entails using hazardous materials under less hazardous conditions. This includes using these materials at lower temperatures and pressures. Other approaches include (1) refrigeration to lower vapor pressures, (2) diluting solutions to a lower concentration, and (3) using larger particle-sized solids to reduce dust explosions, to name a few.

The simplify strategy is based on the fact that simpler plants are friendlier than complex plants, because they provide fewer opportunities for error and because they contain less equipment that can cause problems. Often, the complexity in a process is driven by the need to add equipment and automation to control the hazards. Simplification reduces the opportunities for errors and mis-operation.

In the strictest sense, inherently safer design applies only to the elimination of hazards. Some of the inherently safer design strategies shown in Table 1-20 treat hazards by making the hazard less intense or less likely to occur. For instance, simplifying a complex piping system reduces the frequency of leaks and operator error, but does not completely eliminate the hazard—the remaining pipes and valves can still leak. The inherently safer design strategies that eliminate the hazard are called first-order strategies, whereas strategies that make the hazard less intense or less likely to occur are called second-order strategies.

Although inherently safer design should be applied at every point in a process life cycle, the potential for major improvements is the greatest at the earliest stages of process development. At these early stages, process engineers and chemists have the maximum degree of freedom in the selection of the reaction, chemicals, process technology, and plant design and process specifications.

Inherently safer design can significantly reduce the hazards in a process, but it can go only so far. Many chemicals and products are used precisely because of their hazardous properties. For instance, if gasoline is the product, then flammability is the necessary hazardous property for this product—this hazard cannot be eliminated.

After we have applied inherently safer design as much as possible, we can use a hierarchy of management systems to control the remaining hazards, as shown in Table 1-21. Inherently safer design appears at the top of the hierarchy and should be the first approach, followed by passive, active, and procedural strategies. The strategies closer to the top of Table 1-21 are more robust than the lower strategies and should be preferred.

Table 1-21 Hierarchy of Process Risk Management Strategies. The strategies at the top of the table are more robust





See Table 1-20.

Minimize (intensification).

Substitute (substitution).

Moderate (attenuation and limitation of effects).

Simplify (simplification and error tolerance).


Minimizes the hazard through process and equipment design features that reduce either the frequency or the consequence without the active functioning of any device.

Using equipment with a higher pressure rating than the maximum possible pressure.

Blast walls around process equipment to reduce blast overpressures.

Dikes around storage vessels to contain spills.

Separation of equipment from occupied buildings and other locations where personnel may be present.


Requires an active response. These systems are commonly referred to as engineering controls, although human intervention is also included.

Alarms, with operator response.

Process control system, including basic process control systems, safety instrumented systems, and safety instrumented functions.

Sprinklers and water deluge systems.

Pressure relief devices.

Inerting and purging systems.

Water curtains to knock down gas releases.



Based on an established or official way of doing something. These are commonly referred to as administrative controls.


Operating procedures.

Safe work practices, such as lock-out/tag-out, vessel entry, and hot work.

Emergency response procedures.


Active safeguards require the physical motion or activity in the performance of the equipment’s function; a valve opening or closing is an example. A passive safeguard is hardware that is not physically actuated to perform its function; dikes around storage vessels are an example. Procedural safeguards, often called administrative safeguards, are administrative or management safeguards that do not directly involve hardware; an operating procedure is an example.

One potential problem with inherently safer design is risk shifting. That is, application of inherently safer design strategies might shift the risk from one population to another. For example, one company used a highly toxic chemical as a catalyst in a process. The chemical was highly effective and was recycled with little make-up. The company decided to replace the highly toxic catalyst with one that was considerably less toxic—an inherently safer approach by substitution. The less toxic catalyst required a substantial amount of make-up, necessitating regular and substantial truck shipments. While the risk to the company’s employees was reduced, the risk to the community was increased due to the truck shipments along municipal roads.

Environmental impacts should also be considered in inherently safer designs. A classic example of this is refrigeration systems. In the very early days of refrigeration, ammonia was used as a refrigerant. Ammonia is toxic, and leaks of this gas can affect both employees and the surrounding communities. Later, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were developed to replace ammonia. Since these refrigerants are not toxic, CFCs were inherently safer than ammonia. However, in the 1970s, CFCs were found to deplete the ozone layer. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were used for a short period since these had less impact on the environment. More recently, many refrigeration systems have returned to ammonia as a preferred refrigerant primarily to reduce environmental impacts.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020