Tom Nolan, ProSys
Currently, there is a lot of attention being given to alarm management and for good reason. Processes need alarms to alert operators that an abnormal situation has occurred with undesirable consequences if the operator does not take action to mitigate. No matter what your plant produces, things happen and people need to intervene.
It is very well established that a process owner that is not managing alarms properly is putting the community, employees, and their investment at risk. ISA 18.2 is a recognized standard that is generally accepted as a good engineering practice by regulatory agencies. ISA 18.2 is not a recommendation or simply “nice to have.” A process owner operating a facility will, and should be, held accountable. Improper alarm management is a big problem which is well documented for its role in many incidents such as Bhopal, Three Mile Island and Texas City. Incidents such as these and others are what brought alarm management to the point where a standard such as ISA 18.2 is needed.
Reduce the risk of being held accountable by regulatory agencies by being compliant with this standard. ISA 18.2’s biggest reward is greatly reducing the chance of having incidents that are going to hurt people, cost a lot of money and result in the negative consequences of not operating the facility the way it should have been. It is not just a compliance mark on a piece of paper, it causes the facility to be safer, enables your license to operate and protects your investment.
If rationalized correctly with the right team, a great deal of process knowledge can be captured and transferred through the development of the causes, consequences and actions. A lot of experienced board operators are probably baby boomers who can retire soon. Younger workers are a lot more mobile, and consider moving to new opportunities normal and desirable. Capturing this knowledge before it moves to the west coast of Florida to enjoy a tropical drink and the sunset is very valuable. Those workers are also the right folks to understand the consequences and the time to respond to get the alarm priorities right. Once that judgement is captured into giving the right priority into the alarms, it is available for everyone else who deals with the board.
The good news is that compliance with ISA 18.2 is achievable. It takes some know-how and the right tools, but has been done many times before in many types of processes. Alarms can be an emotional issue. Consider bringing in a neutral facilitator to lead the team through the process. It is a lot more efficient to partner with a company such as ProSys that has successfully been down this road many times before. If done right, ISA 18.2 will set your facility up with a lifecycle model that will enable you to stay in compliance.
The cornerstone of alarm management is the alarm philosophy which is the basis of the alarm management program. Many decisions are made based on the alarm philosophy down the road, so don’t be shy about getting help in making a good one. Getting it right improves quality and saves time and expenses.