From the best practices track-- #1

Nancy B here again.


This afternoon, I get an immersion course in Best Practices. First up is "Emerging Standards in Alarm Management"”ISA." The moderator is Mik Marvan of Matrikon, product manager for Matrikon Alarm Management and a voting member of ISA SP18.02. The little squib in the program begins with the ominous announcement, "The time is fast approaching when non-compliance with industry standards concerning alarm management will no longer be an option." EEMUA 191 and NAMUR NA102 are "initial steps" towards global mandated compliance in this field, but these standards are still largely viewed as "best practices." This pending SP18.02 standard from ISA will change the way alarm management is perceived. SP18.02 should be ready for approval by ISA in early 2008.


A standard around alarm management can save industry serious money. The cost of abnormal situations comes down to a 3%-8% loss in throughput"” $20 billion per year.


Facts about alarms


Human error represents 42% of alarms, 36% come from equipment failure, 22% from the process.


Humans are a weak link. People make mistakes, plus there are now fewer people to monitor more things. This presents an opportunity for DCS to present details to operators.


Nuisance alarms are most reported.

Stale alarms that remain in alarm for extended periods

Alarm floods. Multiple alarms in a short time.

Lack of clarity.  Cause and/or response not clear to operator. These four factors point to the reasons why some standards around alarm management are important.



Philosophy behind standard: Alarm Management as a life cycle


Alarm management is not a one-time thing. Adoption requires facilities to take ownership of the issue. Like addicts, they have to admit they have a problem. It may require a cultural change to adopt AM.


Life Cycle Model -what is in the standard


Alarm philosophy

System Requirements



Basic Alarm Design

HMI Design

Advanced Alarming Techniques

Implementation & Training


Maintenance & Refresher Training

Montioring & Assessment


Management of change



Plan is to submit to ISA review October 2007. Probably published in 2008.


Who does is apply. Applies to process industries. oil & gas, power, nuclear commodity chemicals, petrochemicals, mining & minerals pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, pulp and paper.


Life cycle model similar to the one in ISA S84.01. Adopted in 1996.  One year later ANSI adopts it as a standard. OSHA endorses in 2000. "Now a recognized and generally accepted good engineering practice" for SIS.


Grandfather clause.  "Owner/operator must only demonstrate that the SIS is designed, maintained, inspected, tested and operating in a safe manner. " Releases owner/operation released from new requirements if they can meet the criteria.


Two ways to prove "safe manner" of operations.


  1. Use Process Hazards Analysis
  2. Review existing SIS


Burden of proof for S84 is on manufacturing companies to show they follow methodologies.


Alarm philosophy & system.  Design it right and keep it there. Push through requirements to operations.


Monitoring and Assessment.  Focus on quantitative analysis to determine gaps. Flow maintenance and MOC paths to resolve. Have to go back and apply conclusions to operations.


Audit.  Gap analysis. Action plan to close gaps. Have system in place to make sure change can happen. Identify needs and make sure they are met. Once a year. Take a step back to see whole operation and where it is/


SP 18 has developed a life cycle model

Framework gathers the known practices

Addresses known problems.


The key takeaway: This new standard has changed definition of "alarm." By definition, alarm requires operator intervention. This was a hot topic in committee. Other standards have differing definitions. This has always been a problem in trying to control number of alarms. Goal is to try to nail down the definition.


Standard not a replacement for EEMUA