Voices: Rezabek

Wanted: Better designed systems for operators

Operators responding to abnormal situations need better designed systems. The challenge is not inundating the operator while being sure to wake them up.

By John Rezabek
May 11, 2015

Consultants focusing on operator effectiveness have been known to draw some inspiration from military aircraft designs, which incorporate a lot of graphical depictions of flight and combat variables on their cockpit "heads-up" displays. The present generation of operator graphics uses some of these elements, often hiding or eliminating numerical values and incorporating retro panel board faceplates, animated bar graphs and dials. But when I pitch these ideas to the boss, he has a straightforward rebuttal: Do we expect our operators to be fighter pilots? That's a very succinct way of saying, jazzy new graphics aside, we don't rely on operators for life-or-death split-second judgments and actions, like one would a pilot in combat. In fact, most HAZOPs, layer of protection analyses (LOPAs) and alarm philosophies specify allowing 10 minutes for an operator to respond to take credit for an operator intervention. Some companies require a lot more than 10 minutes, or not at all! "Our operators are rocks," one HAZOP leader told me.

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