“Aging” and BRZO: more than just the hardware!

During Directive on Risks and Severe Accidents (in Dutch: BRZO) inspections, the theme of “aging” is frequently on the agenda. The Dutch website BRZO+ states that “for years, aging in Europe has been the biggest cause of accidents". The Netherlands is no exception. The majority of the facilities in the (petro)chemical industry in the Netherlands have been operating for many years. Many of them could be categorized as relatively old - “aging” - facilities. When the EU guideline 2012-18 EU took effect, “aging” was incorporated as part of the mandatory Safety Management System under “VBS element iii”. As such, it is included as an inspection item in the BRZO 2015.

“Aging” is described as follows in the EU guideline: “in addition to pure aging of facilities and components of a certain age, all aspects that have to do with wear and tear or degradation due to substances, use or inappropriate or insufficient maintenance.” We feel that this definition is too limited. Organizations also age, as do employees; knowledge is lost as people retire or move on to other jobs. Are employees kept up-to-date on the latest developments in their field?

In an effort to meet the BRZO definition of “aging” halfway, we propose an approach focused on creating a Long Term Asset Replacement Plan. This approach would manage the impact of “aging” by considering the following aspects:

  1. Technical aging (i.e. corrosion)
  2. Deliverability (obsolescence)
  3. Legal applicability (compliance)
  4. Maintenance costs (economic)

Important elements of this approach are:

  • The Compliance ABCs which assess the components separately:
    • A. Design (design compliance)
    • B. Maintenance (maintenance compliance)
    • C. Management (management compliance)
  • A yardstick to measure the condition of a resource, which has standardized “the extent to which standards are met” onto a scale of 1-6 (1 is outstanding, 6 is “out of control”).
  • Risk approach, which uniformly assesses the risks from using different kinds of assets and manages residual risk in a structured way.

Application of this approach will provide insight into all “aging”-related aspects beyond hardware. As a result of having everything on the radar, the Asset Owner is able to better negotiate about mitigating aging risks under more supervised conditions. With a more complete view of related (investment) costs, the Asset Owner is also in a position to better spread out their spending and thereby optimize it.


Co-authors Geert-Henk Wijnants and Mathon Erps are principal consultants at Stork Asset Management Solutions. They specialize in Reliability & Integrity Management and support businesses with compliance issues. They share their experiences from the field in their articles.