An article co-authored by exida's Todd Stauffer titled Delve Deeper Into Level Overflow Incidents is featured in the latest Chemical Processing.
Tank level overflow incidents are one of the most common scenarios for a loss of primary containment at a process plant. Effective alarms, as a first layer of protection, are critical to preventing tank overflows. Often the initial question after an incident is: “Did the operator get an alarm?” Immediately the focus goes to “human error” as the likely cause (the “what”). This article instead will explore the sources of human error related to alarming — with a goal of exposing the “why” and the “how” (to do it better). It provides guidance on investigating an alarm incident, including relevant questions and a “Why Tree” for determining root cause. It also offers recommendations for how to prevent or minimize human error by the operator.
First, though, it’s important to understand that human error is common and costly. Medical errors in hospitals and clinics result in approximately 100,000 deaths each year in the United States and cost the healthcare industry between $4 and $20 billion annually. In the petrochemical industries, operational error can cost upward of $80 million per incident. “Operator error” is a significant causal factor in 60–85% of industrial accidents.