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Alarm Rationalization by the Numbers

Alarm Rationalization by the Numbers

“How much time does alarm rationalization take?” 

It finally happened. Alarm management problems at the plant led to an incident and now management wants action. You have “volunteered” to put together a plan to execute alarm rationalization. You need to create a defendable estimate of how long rationalization will…

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Four Ways to Pick a Winning Alarm Rationalization Team

Four Ways to Pick a Winning Alarm Rationalization Team

“Who should participate in alarm rationalization?” 

It finally happened. Alarm management problems at the plant led to an incident and now management wants action. You have “volunteered” to put together a staffing plan to execute alarm rationalization. You have heard it can be a resource-intensive process, so you want…

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If an Alarm Occurs and the Operator doesn’t Ack it, was it really an Alarm?

If an Alarm Occurs and the Operator doesn’t Ack it, was it really an Alarm?

Similar to the thought experiment “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, we ask - If an alarm is generated, and the operator fails to acknowledge it, was it really an alarm? A prevalence of unacknowledged…

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Can Nuisance Alarms “Break” the Operator?

Can Nuisance Alarms “Break” the Operator?

Study after study finds that something like 80% of industrial incidents (give or take) are caused by Human Error. Incidents involving human error often include a failure of the operator to respond to an alarm, which is often directly or indirectly caused by nuisance alarms. Poor alarm management has…

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Operator Response - the SRK Model

Operator Response - the SRK Model

Understanding operator decision-making is a good first step in improving operator effectiveness. Operator decision-making depends on the person (their level of expertise) and the situation (how familiar). A popular behavioral model from Rasmussen proposes that operator response can be broken into three levels; skill-based behavior, rule-based behavior, and knowledge-based behavior as shown in…

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Alarm Rationalization: An Art or a Science? – Common Rationalization Mistakes

Alarm Rationalization: An Art or a Science? – Common Rationalization Mistakes

Successful alarm rationalization combines both art and science. From the scientific point of view, rationalization follows a systematic process that applies alarm management principles to determine whether an alarm is justified (needed) and to document its basis (cause, consequence, corrective action, time to respond) and settings (priority, setpoint) in…

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Rationalize Your Alarm Management Problems Away

Rationalize Your Alarm Management Problems Away

The increasing global adoption of alarm management standards (ISA-18.2 and IEC 62682) is bringing the importance of alarm rationalization to the forefront. Rationalization is defined as the “process to review potential alarms using the principles of the alarm philosophy, to select alarms for design, and to document the rationale…

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Alarm Management Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Alarm Management Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The March / April 2020 issue of Intech contains an excellent article by Nick Sands and Donald Dunn, the co-chairs for the ISA-18 committee. 

The article reviews some of the most frequently asked questions on alarm management:

  1. What is alarm management?
  2. Which alarm management standard do…

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Why should I use an Alarm Deadband?

Why should I use an Alarm Deadband?

As many of you will know, one of the most common form of nuisance to operators working industrial controls are repeating or chattering alarms. On a typical plant, repeating alarms may account for around 50% of the alarm annunciations. They are a problem because the operator will have to…

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Alarm System Auditing and Enforcement – The Why and the How

Alarm System Auditing and Enforcement – The Why and the How

One of the more important tasks in the alarm management lifecycle is auditing of the alarm system configuration. Auditing preserves your investment in rationalization, checks for changes that bypassed the MOC process, and helps you to maintain the integrity of the alarm system. Oh, and it also required per…

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Safety Alarms and Why ISA-84.91.03 is Needed

Safety Alarms and Why ISA-84.91.03 is Needed

On July 27, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued a Factual Update on their investigation into a release of water containing a toxic gas (hydrogen sulfide) and subsequent fatal injuries sustained at the Aghorn Operating Waterflood Station.  While it is typically not a good idea to comment on investigations…

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Which Measure (Rationalized or Annunciated) is More Important?

Which Measure (Rationalized or Annunciated) is More Important?

Get your priorities (distribution) straight

A very common question is posed during alarm management training.  Does the recommended alarm priority distribution of ~5% / ~15% / ~80% for high / medium / low priority alarms apply to the rationalized alarm priority distribution (as configured in the control system) or to the annunciatedalarm priority distribution…

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Bow Ties Part II: Do Bow Ties have a place in Alarm Management?

Bow Ties Part II: Do Bow Ties have a place in Alarm Management?

As discussed in Part I, bow tie diagrams provide an easy-to-understand visual representation of risk management information (hazards, potential consequences, barriers, degradation factors and controls). In this article we examine the applicability of bow ties to alarm management.

According to the CCPS book “Bow Ties in Risk Management”,…

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Alarm Philosophy Development – Going to Great Lengths

Alarm Philosophy Development – Going to Great Lengths

Creating an alarm philosophy document is often the entry point into the ISA-18.2/IEC 62682 alarm management lifecycle. Many tasked with developing one are discouraged by its length and the barriers it creates. When it comes to using the philosophy document, a common concern is that if the…

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Alarm Response Procedures: More than Just a Good Idea

Alarm Response Procedures: More than Just a Good Idea

From an operations point of view, one of the significant parts of the ISA-18.2 and IEC 62682 alarm management standards is the endorsement of alarm response procedures. An alarm response procedure, otherwise known as “Alarm Help” or “Alarm Response Manual”, is defined as guidance for response to an alarm (e.g., operator…

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