The Solvay Novecare plant in Pasadena, Texas had nuisance alarms, critical alarms that weren’t (critical), and production delays due to alarms being missed. A stronger alarm management program was needed to create a safer and more productive plant.
Alarm management problems can impact operations directly and indirectly. In Solvay’s case, operators were overloaded with nuisance alarms, oftentimes filling three to four pages of the alarm summary with stale alarms. This caused the operators to ignore alarms, reduced their situation awareness, and made it hard to notice new alarms. Because of the volume of nuisance alarms, the alarm horn was left disabled after commissioning so that no audible notification was generated for alarms or for batch recipe prompts. The lack of audible notification made it more challenging for the operators to “stay on top” of the process and to know when new alarms came in. Occasionally, this led to production interruptions when key utility equipment shutdown that could have been addressed promptly, but instead went unnoticed.
Solvay contracted with exida to implement a holistic alarm management approach, starting with the Pasadena plant, and intentionally designed as a baseline for other Solvay Novecare sites. Applying the ISA-18.2 standard, which is considered recognized and generally accepted good engineering practice (RAGAGEP) by OSHA, was key to developing a successful alarm management program and is the basis of exida’s recommendations.