• Alarm Audit

    2010 - Power/oil

    Andy was asked to carry out an alarm audit at a facility controlling power generation and supply to oil production sites. Over 20 gas turbines and a distribution network were controlled from a central location. Andy found that the system had evolved over a number of years, resulting a mismatch of control and monitoring technology being used. All had their own alarm systems, with varying problems and were in desperate need of review and rationalisation. Andy identified that operators were overloaded with alarms, but had developed coping strategies that allowed them to prioritise their actions. He provided the client with a plan to fundamentally change the way alarms were being managed that would improve reliability and process safety.  This was very well received, and Andy was asked to return to implement the proposals at a new facility. In fact the client was so impressed they offered a financial bonus.

  • Alarm management

    2008 - Gas onshore processing

    As part of a major plant design, Andy's client was required to carry out an alarm review. Andy advised the control, process and operations engineers on the project of current good practices for process alarms, particularly regarding prioritisation, and assisted in the initial review. They commented that this would result in an alarm system that was quite different to those they had experienced in the past but quickly understood the logic and started to see the benefits.

    The end result was a relatively small number of high priority alarms, with more medium and low priorities, and a significant number assigned to 'journal.' This compared to an initial allocation where the vast majority of alarms were to be assigned high priority, which would have inevitably resulted in a high workload and distraction for operators. Although a significant undertaking, the project proved that an alarm review was achievable and manageable.

  • Alarm review and rationalisation

    2011 - Power/oil

    Andy acted as leader of an alarm review for two new gas turbines.  He ran a workshop attended by representatives from operations, engineering, projects and maintenance teams; as well as EPC contractors and vendors.  Andy's first task was to achieve an agreed alarm philosophy consistent with latest standards and guidance including EMMUA 191.  This was then applied to the proposed set of alarms for the turbines and associated systems.  The result was a significant reduction, with approximately 70% being converted to journal notifications that would be recorded but not create an audible alarm in the control room.  This approach allowed fundamental changes in the way the turbines were to be operated where the operators could concentrate on proactive monitoring of the plant whilst the maintenance department would be responsible for identifying and planning maintenance interventions.  As well as specifying improved alarms, Andy's report made recommendations for improved process graphics and performance reporting.

  • Control room assessment

    2006 - Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)

    The site had recently undergone extensive modification. This included addition of a new control console in the existing control room. The client recognised that the design of the console had not received sufficient attention, and that the physical ergonomics were not ideal. Andy was asked to evaluate whether process safety had also been compromised through the design. The conclusion was that current best practice had not been followed, and that this meant risks were not as low as reasonably practicable. Andy then used the results of this study to influence the design of a new control room, to be constructed in approximately two years time. He was able to get the principles of ISO 11064 incorporated into the project, including end user participation.

  • Control room ergonomics review

    2005 - Gas

    Operation of the client's major hazard site includes a significant number of actions performed from a central control room. Over the years the plant being operated has changed, new control equipment had been installed and the control room had been generally rearranged with little control. Andy was asked to evaluate the ergonomics. Andy's study involved observation, discussion and task analysis. His conclusion was that the basic physical environment (heating, lighting etc.) was adequate, but that there were significant concerns about how various control screens and communications are arranged. Andy made a number of suggestions for rearranging the current equipment to make improvements in the short term, and advised that more wide ranging improvements will be required in the future.

  • Control room task analysis

    2008 - Chemical manufacture

    The client's site was undergoing significant plant modifications. Additional equipment was being installed with its own control system. This was to be operated by the existing personnel. The requirement was that throughput would increase with the number of plant disturbances being decreased. Andy was asked to identify opportunities to reduce the current workload by improving the operator interface of the existing control system. He did this using task analysis, with a team of plant operators providing  job knowledge. The client was very impressed with how quickly Andy was able to understand plant operations and with how effective task analysis was at identify practical improvements.

  • Development of a company standard for control room design

    2011 - Chemical

    The client was expecting to be upgrade various aspects of a number of control rooms over the coming months and years. They realised that in the past human factors had not received much attention when designing or planning changes to control rooms, and that this had sometimes caused them problems.  Also, they recognised there were some regulatory requirements. Andy was asked to develop an in-house standard that could be used when designing and reviewing control rooms. It referred to published standards, guides and good practices; but also provided practical guidance and insights gained for Andy's experiences with control room. The result was a relatively simple document that summarised all the key human factors and ergonomics issues associated with control rooms along with advice for assessing and managing design and change processes.

  • Development of an in-house alarm policy, management and review procedures.

    2013 - Gas

    Andy was engaged to provide expert advice in the development of a suite of documents for managing process alarms.  He was able to make recommendations about how to improve the management of alarms to achieve latest standards, guidance and industry good practice; and to make the documents themselves more useable.

  • Evaluation of a control room merger

    2003 - Chemical

    The client was planning to combine four control rooms on the site, into one. The knock-on effect of this was that support engineers would no longer be located in the same building as the process operators, but centrally some 200 metres away. Andy carried out a qualitative assessment of the potential risks associated with this move on the basis that it was a significant organisational change that would affect the way individuals and different groups would interact and communicate. The people most affected were involved via focus groups and interviews. The assessment was used to advise the client about how to manage the change to minimise the risk.

  • Human factors for a control room at a new facility

    2007 - Liquefied natural gas (LNG)

    The client was building a new facility, which was to include a new control room. Andy was asked to comment on the engineering contractor's design. He identified a number of deficiencies and was able to advise on how current good practices could be incorporated. He was subsequently asked to provide more detailed advice on the operator interfaces in the control room.

    Andy conducted a task analysis workshop with the future operators of the plant. From this he was able to specify requirements for overview and detailed graphics; including task and scenario based displays where appropriate. As well as using the analyses carried out by Andy in the design of their user interfaces, the operators continued to carry out additional task analyses using the same method as they found it a very valuable exercise in reviewing the plant design and considering how they were to operate the plant in the future.

  • Review of control room arrangements

    2006 - Gas, offshore

    Andy was asked to return to the platform approximately one year after his initial review, to evaluate subsequent changes. He found that a number of his previous recommendations had been implemented, and had been received favourably by both operators and management. Andy to identified some further opportunities to improve, challenging some custom and practice that could potentially introduce risk. He was able to make a number of recommendations to further improve the control room that would ultimately contribute to safely reducing manning levels.

  • Review of control room arrangements

    2005 - Gas, offshore

    The original arrangement on the offshore complex included two control rooms. The client had recently changed this to have the two operators in the same room. Andy was required to evaluate the impact of this change and to determine whether it would be possible for one operator to operate the whole complex. This involved a visit offshore and a two day workshop with personnel. The HSE staffing methodology was used as the basis for the evaluation. Andy's conclusions were that the completed changes were largely satisfactory, but that further changes to alarm systems and layout of the control room were required before any down manning could be considered to ensure the lone operator was not overly distracted be events.

  • Review of control room ergonomics

    2004 - Chemical Manufacture

    The client was installing modern DCS computer control technology in an old control room. This was a temporary measure, whilst a new control room was built, but could last up to two years. Andy visited the control room to observe activities, discuss the operators' views and consider options to improve ergonomics given the significant constraints caused by reusing an existing room. Reference was made to HSE guidance and ISO 11064. The report discussed concerns about workstation layout, which put the two control room operators at some distance apart. Suggestions were made about how the layout could be changed to assist in teamwork. Operators had said they would need assistance in the control room at times of high demand, yet there were no spare workstations, and even answering the phone for the operators would be difficult. Options to allow such support were proposed. Some existing, wall mounted instruments and controls were located some distance from the new workstations, and the report stated that these needed to be moved as a priority. Also, it was noted that either operator in the control room could silence and accept all the alarms, and there was a significant possibility that alarms could be missed. Suggestions were made to improve the arrangement. Some of these were implemented immediately. Others were used to inform the design of the new control room.

  • Supporting the design of a control room upgrade

    2011 - Chemical manufacture

    An existing control room was requiring a complete upgrade.  The available space was limited and the client had a number of plans for changes they wanted to incorporate.  Andy worked with the operating team and control/instrument department to define the requirements and constraints for the control room; and identified relevant aspects of standards and guidance that needed to be applied.  He produced sketches that were used as the basis for the detailed design and provided advice on subjects from room and equipment layout, furniture selection and colour schemes.