Operator response to process and safety alarms are key components of most operating and safeguarding strategies. The complexity of these systems and number of alarms has grown rapidly creating new issues that were not prevalent a couple of decades ago. This increased level of information and demand on an operators attention can degrade response to safety critical alarms (safety, environment, regulatory, asset/production). Watchmen's processes include application of the ISA 18.2 Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industry standard as a strategy to address these very serious concerns. Compliance with the ISA 18.2 Alarm Management standard supports the pursuit of operational excellence and meets the requirements described in the CAN/CSA Z767 process safety management National Standard of Canada.
The extensive process safety expertise our functional safety specialists at Watchmen provide are uniquely suited to guide the implementation of these highly specialized activities.
For owners of existing facilities that would like to assess the level of conformance of their processes and alarm system performance against the ISA 18.2 standard, this is a great first step. Our team will perform a site audit to observe, collect information and interview key personnel working with alarm systems. A benchmarking audit report will be issued to identify compliance gaps and areas for potential improvement for use in developing an alarm management strategy.
For greenfield facilities looking to implement a new alarm system or existing facilities looking to evaluate and optimize their alarm systems, establishing an Alarm Management Philosophy is the first step to optimizing alarm performance. The philosophy developed establishes a plan that will guide the rest of the lifecycle activities (rationalization, prioritization, detailed design, implementation, commissioning/testing, operation and maintenance, decommissioning). Watchmen can provide detailed alarm management philosophy templates that can be tailored to each application covering key topics that should be addressed.
Alarm systems must be capable of effective communication during normal and upset conditions to maximize the operators ability to take a prioritized response within the available time to prevent an unwanted condition. Rationalization is a facilitated activity performed to assess each alarm and validate that it is meaningful and useful. Many alarms provide little value and can be degraded to a different type of notification (i.e. log or message) or even removed. This can have a profound reduction on the load placed on the operator.
Alarm prioritization is intended to prioritize an operator response when multiple alarms come in at or near the same time. If not effectively prioritized, the operator response time to alarms cannot be assured. Alarm prioritization is also a facilitated activity that will assess rationalized alarms, weighing the consequence of inaction against the needed response time. Once effectively prioritized, high criticality alarms rates should be greatly reduced such that an operator can quickly prioritize their response during normal and upset conditions.
Our functional safety specialists at Watchmen are uniquely well suited for alarm rationalization and prioritization. These activities require meaningful and purposeful discussion and time management of a multi-disciplinary team. We are experts with facilitation of various session types including HAZOP and LOPA. This enables us to effectively manage meetings while maintaining team focus and progressing the study to minimize the time demands and cost associated with the team. Our expert knowledge of processes such as HAZOP, LOPA, SIL, Fire and Gas Systems provides insight into the process few others can provide.
There are many ways to optimize alarm systems to maximize operators response and minimize "bad actors". Watchmen can lead a review for setpoint analysis to ensure sufficient response time is available, the addition of delays and debounce timers to avoid "chatter", advanced alarming such as state based and dynamic alarming.
Pre-determining and communicating alarm responses with Operator Decision Support is another way to maximize their effectiveness. Watchmen can facilitate this activity to determine details that can be configured into the alarm system including: most likely alarm cause, consequence of inaction, recommended response and time available to respond.
Our functional safety specialists are available to provide continued support with management and/or guidance for programmers that will make the alarm system configuration changes. Ask our team how we can support you in these activities if needed.
Our team can provide detailed alarm test procedures and checklists which may be combined with SIS proof test procedures.
We offer alarm management training for operations and maintenance staff. This provides documented competency in what is required to safety and effectively operate and maintain alarm systems.
Watchmen Instrumented Safety Experts (WISE) is a Functional Safety Engineering company with specialized expertise in preventative and mitigative instrumented safety. Our expertise includes HAZOP & LOPA Facilitation, SIL / SIS Calculations and Consulting, Alarm Management, Fire and Gas Systems Engineering. Consult one of our experts for your instrumented safety project today.
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