Thursday, October 16, 2014

HAZOP, Risk Ranking and Ebola

During the design of new oil and gas or chemical facilities it is required that something called a HAZOP be performed. A HAZOP is short for hazard and operability study. In it, a group of engineers brainstorm all the different ways that something could go wrong, no matter how remote. When all of these are captured to the satisfaction of everyone on the team, they then try to decide upon the possibility of that event occurring and the damage should it occur. Each potential failure is then given a risk ranking. These range from High Probability - Low Consequence to Low Probability - High Consequence. We all know that we have to protect ourselves  from the former but we also have to consider the latter.

I submit that the transmission of ebola should be considered a Low Probability - High Consequence event. It may be difficult to transmit but the consequences of catching it are very high. In engineering, we would take whatever means were necessary to guard against one of these events and ebola should be thought of in the same way. We cannot be casual in our approach to containing this disease.

And that means you have to assume that anyone treating an ebola patient could contract the disease. Therefore, all health care workers should be volunteers who agree to be under quarantine for three weeks to make sure that they do not come down with the disease. During this period they should not be allowed to travel or interact with the public. Understanding this does not require a medical degree, ony a degree in common sense which seems to be lacking in our current government.

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