Risk Analysis

Almost any new technology involves some risk. Risks involved in working with hydrogen can be minimized through adherence to standard design parameters for equipment and procedures. The Fuel Cell Technologies Office strives for complete system safety in all program-supported activities. A safety plan, which is composed of a failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), a risk mitigation plan, and a communication plan, is used as a criterion for the selection and continuation of supported projects. The three components of a safety plan include:

  • The FMEA is a widely used tool in the safety and reliability engineering fields. The main objective of an FMEA is the analysis of every possible failure in a component or a process. The FMEA includes possible results of a failure and peripheral failures that can occur following a component failure. A complete FMEA typically resembles a tree structure, and it can be completed in either a top-down or a bottom-up approach. Because specific components are typically not selected during the proposal stage of a project, the functional, or bottom-up approach, is often more suitable for preliminary plans. This method allows for the identification of failures on the subsystem level.

  • The risk mitigation plan is used to minimize potential risks. A typical product of an FMEA is a list of potential hazards that require additional attention. The risk mitigation plan entails a prioritization of those hazards, possible resolutions for each hazard, and a list of action items to mitigate those risks. As with the detailed FMEA, the risk mitigation plan is required for all selected projects.

  • The communication plan outlines the reports that are made to the Program upon the occurrence of a safety incident. It indicates the severity of incidents that are reported, states the method of reporting, and lists which entities will be notified. The communication plan is required for all selected projects.

For details on DOE's safety plan requirements, see Safety Planning Guidance for Hydrogen Projects, revised April 2010.