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The spreading of faults and serious failures in many large-scale engineering systems is today one of the issues of the highest concern. This paper presents a novel method for modeling the fault propagation behaviors from the perspective of complex network theory. By focusing essentially on the topological structure properties of the underlying system network, several principles that are capable of assessing the safety characteristics of the network nodes are proposed. Rather than the probabilistic approach, the fault propagation intensity considering the network statistical information is defined as the weight of the link between the nodes. Subsequently, the critical nodes and the fault propagation paths with high risk are obtained through the qualitative fault propagation analysis. A case study of sym-tetramethyl benzene (STBZ) production system is provided to illustrate the feasibility of the proposed approach, and to verify the efficiency to discover the system vulnerability. Research shows that the safety performance of a complex system is indeed affected by the availability of some critical nodes, which is a helpful method to the safety assessment and failure prevention.