Human factors: Alarm management
Why is alarm management an issue?
Optimising alarm system design is important to facilitate accurate and timely fault prompting and diagnosis to operators, and hence more effective plant management. There is a great deal of evidence relating to the role of poorly design alarm systems in major incidents, for example the staff at Milford Haven Refinery were faced with a barrage of alarms for five hours preceding the incident.
Key principles of alarm management
- Alarms should direct the operator's attention towards plant conditions requiring timely assessment or action;
- Alarms should alert, inform and guide required operator action;
- Every alarm should be useful and relevant to the operator, and have a defined response;
- Alarm levels should be set such that the operators have sufficient time to carry out their defined response before the plant condition escalates;
- The alarm system to accommodate human capabilities and limitations;