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The Eye for Plant Operator's Eyes
The plant operator has an extremely valuable and important responsibility: being the force and energy managing a capital enterprise easily worth hundreds of millions of dollars to produce or impact a daily revenue stream of millions, give or take. We ask him to be ever mindful of what the plant might be doing. We ask him to be capable of finding every little problem before it grows into a big one. We ask him to shoulder the burden of everything that goes wrong during his watch, all without any recognition when nothing does, and precious little (if not actual blame) when it goes wrong and he manages to manage. Within his area of responsibility and authority he must be able to view every control loop, most sensors, most pieces of equipment, and much of the supporting utilities, and then adjust as appropriate.
The failure to maintain situational awareness has been present in almost every disaster event that was not the result of spontaneous complete surprise. Start with the assumption that no one wants an accident. That no one would chose disaster over success. But accidents and disasters happen. We now know to a high degree of certainty that they happen because those in charge of ensuring that they do not happen, aren't aware that they are happening. They fail to know the situation. They are unaware of what is really going on, what is likely to happen, or what isn't happening that they think is. As explained in my book Alarm Management for Process Control, the solution is facilitated by effective operator interface design. Let's follow the path of interface design that can lead to better situation awareness.
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