Distributed Control / Safety Instrumented Systems

Spring Is in the Air and Safety on Our Minds

Here Is Hoping for a Safe Spring and a Wonderful Summer for You and All Your Control Systems

By Katherine Bonfante

Spring is here and many of us have started making plans for our time off—preferably far away from industrial automation systems and processes. But just as we need to keep our wits about us to prevent the fun from turning bad, vigilance is necessary for the safety of our industrial facilities and automation processes as well. We know what letting our guard down can cost.

Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010? It lasted three months, killed 11 men, injured 17 and caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats, as well as to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industry. Process control consultant Béla Lipták covered the oil spill disaster from a process automation perspective in his article "Can Process Control Prevent Oil Well Blowouts?" In this article, Lipták asked if we could have prevented the blowout with properly designed process control systems. Read his answer and much more at www.controlglobal.com/articles/2010/OilBlowouts1008.html.

Last month was the first anniversary of Japan's nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, last year's nuclear meltdown at Fukushima has been the largest peace-time nuclear disaster seen. Learn more about the Fukushima meltdown by reading editor in chief Walt Boyes' article, "The Nuclear Mess," at www.controlglobal.com/articles/2011/the-nuclear-mess.html.

If you want to know more about how this tragedy unfolded, and see what events looked like on the ground, visit our SoundOff! blog and read the entry "Inside Fukushima and Preventing Future Disasters" at http://community.controlglobal.com/content/inside-fukushima-and-preventing-future-disasters. See also Lipták's three-part analysis of what went wrong and how to prevent such accidents in the future. Read The Fukushima Nuclear Accident - Part 1, Preventing Nuclear Accidents by Automation -- Part 2, and How Automation Can Prevent Nuclear Accidents-Part 3.

If natural disasters aren't enough to worry about, now we have cybersecurity breaches. They happen quickly, wirelessly, remotely and now are weaponized. Read "Stuxnet and the Paradigm Shift in Cyber Warfare" by Robert M. Lee (www.controlglobal.com/articles/2011/stuxnet-paradigm-shift-in-cyber-warfare.html) for a glimpse at the implications of control system vulnerability.

Here is hoping for a safe spring and a wonderful summer for you and all your control systems.