Do Not Snooze that Console Alarm | RefinerLink

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Do Not Snooze that Console Alarm

By Ralph Laurel

Nov 28, 2016

How to not let nuisance alarms desensitize your alarm awareness.


Remember that boy who cried wolf? There’s a wolf! No, there’s not. There’s a wolf! No, there’s not. There’s a wolf! And the boy is now lunch… oops.


Well, take your alarm performance and there’s a chance it’s calling “wolf!” very frequently. And if you let that trend continue something in your refinery is going to end up being lunch.


Your alarms at the console are some of the most important barriers that are present between a near miss and a total disaster. If your console operators are constantly getting alarms it’s more than likely a very important warning is going to go unnoticed or the proper response will not be taken.


The worst enemy of a good protective system is nuisance alarms. Imagine that fire alarm or security system in your home alarming once every week for no reason. Pretty soon, your urgency in responding to that warning is going to be very low.


The same goes for alarms at the console. If alarms are constantly popping up that require little to no response the operators will become numb to them. So although you’d love to warn the console operator about every little issue stick to using alarms for things that are truly necessary.


Another great way to make sure you get the proper response to your alarms is to prioritize the alarm levels. Make sure the truly critical variables have high priority alarms and that the priority is easy for the console operator to recognize. For the lower priority warnings that don’t require immediate action, consider a secondary system completely separate from your console. That way you don’t dilute the critical nature of your alarms.


Alarms can become overwhelming during startups and shutdowns. For that reason consider implementing different alarm modes for these conditions. By switching your alarms into a shutdown mode you can disable many nuisance alarms or change the trigger points on them.


Finally, no matter how well you configure you’re alarms system, it’s important to emphasize an operational culture where running in alarm is not accepted or ignored. Accepting operation with standing alarms gives the message that it is ok to run on the edge, near a point that could trigger a major incident.


If you accept operation in alarm for some variables, you’re accepting violation of all alarms. Have a conversation regarding what actions are being taken to get out of alarm or discuss if the alarm setpoint is set appropriately.


So pay attention to your alarms. Make sure that when it cries wolf, there really is a wolf. That way, you have a better shot at getting the wolf before it gets you.

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