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Guidance for optimising operator plant situational awareness by rationalising control room alarms

How many control room alarms can an operator respond to? Many organisations are working towards the recommendations set in EEMUA 191, which in practice may mean reducing the number of alarms by an order of magnitude. However, organisations undergoing such ‘alarm rationalisation’ struggle to determine how to do this and still maintain (or even optimise) operator situation awareness.

This publication provides accessible guidance to organisations interested in improving existing control room alarm systems or designing new ones. It acts as a companion guide to EEMUA 191, summarising and organising relevant available guidance on how to conduct an alarm rationalisation (to reduce the number of alarms) and discusses why factors other than the number of alarms should be considered when attempting to improve alarm system performance. It then provides a practical methodology and tool by which organisations can assess (and address) the human factors aspects of high-priority alarms, in order to ensure the alarms help, rather than hinder, the operator’s situation awareness.

Specifically, the publication helps operating companies answer three questions: 

  • What factors should be considered when trying to improve control room operator (CRO) situation awareness?
  • Are there an acceptable number of alarms?
  • Do the high-priority alarms maximise the probability of successful CRO response?

 This publication is intended to be used by individuals with responsibility for designing, maintaining and improving alarm systems (e.g. safety engineers, process engineers, plant operators and supervisors). The primary focus is the influence of human factors on alarm handling, rather than system engineering aspects, therefore, users of this publication should not require any specific technical background.

This guideline is available to download for free by registering/logging in to the EI publications website

ISBN: 978 0 85293 913 0                         1st edition                                    Jul 2016

Hard copy EI member price: £15.75

Hard copy non-member price: £21.00

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