How to succeed at alarm management

Find out how you can improve the effectiveness of your distributed control alarm systems by better managing the techniques, tools, standards, and procedures you use in your process plant.

By D. Shook PhD, PE,

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Computerized process control systems add complexity to operating instructions. These operating instructions need to describe the logic of the software as well as the relationship between the equipment and the control system; otherwise, it may not be apparent to the operator.

Training in how to handle upset conditions must be accomplished as well as what operating personnel are to do in emergencies such as when a pump seal fails or a pipeline ruptures.

Our Interpretation
Now that organizations like the EEMUA have defined recommended practices for Alarm Management, OSHA will soon compare your plants to these practices.



National Safety Council

Do You Know What Is Really Critical?
By Dennis C. Hendershot

In general, a more reliable plant is a safer plant. Unplanned shutdowns, with equipment in modes of operation not anticipated by the designer, can create significant risks. And, data shows that for most continuous chemical plants, the highest risk phases of operation are startup and shutdown.

Our Interpretation
An effective alarm system is important in terms of production, safety and equipment damage. Alarms need to occur early enough, but not too early.

Responsible Care Manufacturing Code of Practice
Each company shall have written operating, engineering and maintenance procedures which specify conditions for the responsible operation of any facility during normal or abnormal circumstances. The company shall:

  • Perform and document a regular hazard analysis and risk assessment of the operating facility and take action to minimize identified risk
  • Have written and up-to-date procedures which cover all phases of operation, including start-up and shutdown
  • Have written and up-to-date procedures which protect personnel during the maintenance of the facilities
  • Take action to prevent injury, damage and harm to people and the environment from explosion, fire or uncontrolled releases
  • Have a management system to control and record changes and modifications to equipment, processes, materials and associated computer hardware and software
  • Institute security procedures and systems which protect the facilities and address possible security threats
  • Maintain systems and procedures to minimize risks to safety, health and the environment during the handling and storage of all materials used and produced
  • Audit and update these procedures on a regular basis.

Our Interpretation
You need to conduct process hazard analyses, and have comprehensive procedures to address how the operator must respond to alarms.

Matrikon ProcessGuard
Alarm Management Workshops

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