ASM Alarm Management Guidelines and ISA-18.2: How Do They Stack Up?

The ISA Standard and the ASM Consortium Guidelines Both Offer Important Information About Alarm Management. Although Their Approaches Differ, They Complement One Another

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The ASM document has seven guidelines on training listed in the last section of Table 1. These seven are more general in nature, but encourage a broader operator training experience through the use of "what if" training (Guideline 3.3), situation support tools (3.4) and the use of dynamic simulators (3.7). Additionally the guidelines specifically cover training of the design personnel (Guideline 3.6) and the rationalization team (Guideline 3.2).

Summary and Conclusions

Generally, each ASM guideline is addressed in some way by one or more ISA stages, though ISA-18.2 describes the specific life-cycle stages in more detail than appears in the ASM guidelines document. Taking the other view, each ISA-18.2 stage has one or more ASM guidelines that relates to that stage, though ASM guidelines often make recommendations beyond those found in the ISA standard.

Thus, in the author's opinion, the ISA-18.2 document is the better reference for definitions and for work process details―in some ways a more succinct document for analyzing the impact on your plant; i.e., to plan, fund and execute. The ASM Consortium document is the better reference for background, rationale, business justification and site examples―and being less constrained, enables it to have a slightly broader scope in its recommendations.

Both documents have their recommendations prioritized―ASM using its three numbered priorities, and ISA-18.2 effectively using two―with its "shall" statements and "should" statements. The practitioner can take each document's essential practices and work from there. For example, a good starting point is the ISA-18.2 "shalls," along with the background and added considerations of the ASM priority 1 guidelines.

In conclusion, these two works, developed somewhat independently, but with common motivations and goals, complement each other nicely because of their different perspectives and approaches. Both documents will provide control system engineers and the operating team good guidance and structure to work toward the objectives and targets laid out by EEMUA Publication 191.

  1. Andow, P. (2000). "Alarm Performance Improvement During Abnormal Situations." HAZARDS XV: The Process, Its Safety, and the Environment: Getting it Right. Institute of Chemical Engineers. Manchester, UK. April 2000.
  2. ANSI/ISA-18.00.02-2009. Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries, ISA, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, 2009.
  3. ANSI/ISA-84.00.01-2004, Part 1(IEC 61511-1 Mod) (2004). Functional Safety: Safety Instrumented Systems for the Process Industry Sector — Part 1: Framework, Definitions, System, Hardware and Software Requirements. ISA, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, September 2004.
  4. Bullemer, P., Reising, D., Burns, C., Hajdukiewicz, J., & Andrzejewski, J. (2009). ASM Consortium Guidelines: Effective Operator Display Design. Phoenix, AZ: ASM Consortium
  5. Bransby, M., & Jenkinson, J. (1998). "Alarming Performance," Computing & Control Engineering Journal, April, 1998.
    EEMUA (2007). Alarm Systems: A Guide to Design, Management and Procurement, Publication 191, Edition 2, The Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association. London: EEMUA
  6. Errington, J., Reising, D., & Burns, C. (2009). ASM Consortium Guidelines: Effective Alarm Management Practices. Phoenix, AZ: ASM Consortium.
  7. Nimmo, I. (1995). "Abnormal Situation Management – Adequately Address Abnormal Operations," Chemical Engineering Progress. September, 1995.
  8. Reising, D., Downs, J., & Bayn, D. (2004). "Human Performance Models for Response to Alarm Notifications in the Process Industries: An Industrial Case Study." In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 48th Annual Meeting (pp. 1189-1193). Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
  9. Reising, D. & Montgomery, T. (2005). "Achieving Effective Alarm System Performance: Results of ASM Consortium Benchmarking against the EEMUA Guide for Alarm Systems," Proceedings of the 20th Annual CCPS International Conference, Atlanta, GA, 11-13 April 2005.

Thanks are due to Nicholas Sands, Chairman of the ISA18 Committee, to Dal Vernon Reising and Jamie Errington, co-authors of the ASM Alarm Management Guidelines, and to Peggy Hewitt, Director of the ASM Consortium for encouragement and help in reviewing this paper.

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