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Category: Reflections
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Management of Alarms
Alarms continue to cause problems.  But I am pleased to see that most companies have started recognise the need to modify their systems to reduce the frequency of nuisance alarms during normal operations and floods of alarms when things go wrong.  And it is clear that improvements are being made.
I have assisted clients with setting up their alarm rationalisation programs and procedures; and I have been teaching a one day awareness course (based on EEMUA 191).  From this I have made the following observations:

Process Isolations
This has been a hobby horse of mine for a while.  In fact a number of people have contacted me this year having read my paper on the subject titled “process isolation – it’s more complicated than you think.” 
I have had the chance to carry out task analysis for some process isolation activities during the year.  This has led to some heated debate at times.  Everyone is aware of the guidance from HSE (HSG 253) but is finding it difficult to apply in practice.  My observations include:

Human Factors in Projects
I believe it is a very positive development that human factors are now being given more consideration during the design of new process plant.   I am convinced that this will result in better designs of process plant that will be easier to operate and maintain; with reduced risk of major accidents.  Having been involved in quite a number of projects over recent years my observations include:

Task Analysis and HAZOP
I wrote a paper a little while ago saying that we needed to create better linkages between the various safety studied carried out in the process industry.  My view was that we are tending to do these things in isolation and missing something as a result.  As an example, I felt that there must be useful links between task analysis performed as part of human factors and HAZOP performed as part of the process safety scope.  I have had the opportunity to explore this idea a number of times this year.  My observations include:

Shift Handover
I have had shift handover on my agenda for many years, ever since I studied the Piper Alpha accident as part of my PhD.  I have been generally disappointed that industry has not taken the issue more seriously, especially as it has been cited as making a contribution to several other major accidents.  I have suspected that it has generally fallen into the ‘too difficult’ category, largely because it is totally reliant on the behaviours of the people involved.  However, I have worked with one of my clients this year to improve their procedures for shift handover and in developing a short training course and presenting it to shift teams.  My observations from this include:

I showed a couple of videos on the shift handover courses.  The look on some of the operators’ faces and the “oh sh*t – that could have been us” comments highlighted to me that we all become complacent to risk.  It is a natural human reaction and coping strategy.  This is why we have to keep working to reduce risks, and I am sure that human factors working more closely with other elements of process safety provides us with the means of driving improvement