Human factors take center stage at ASM Consortium meeting

Automation solutions that are designed to be simpler and more intuitive to use would make it easier for plant operators to spot abnormal situations, respond faster and improve safety, according to members of the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) Consortium, which recently gathered in Sydney for a quarterly meeting to discuss challenges faced by plant operators.

The consortium’s Quarterly Review Meeting (QRM) serves as a platform for members to share ASM best practices and discuss new challenges faced in plant operations.

The consortium includes a wide range of industrial manufacturers, vendors, and universities that collaborate to research best practices for managing abnormal situations in industrial facilities.

Human factors issues – the way people interact with technology and how it can be made easier to use – was the focus of the latest QRM.

Members and guest speakers discussed how human factors relate to abnormal situation management and ways it could improve plant safety and efficiency.

Members heard from Jeremy Codd of Arch Insurance, who explained how the insurance industry evaluates safety and human factors in the oil and gas industry, as well as presentations focused on human factors, including “Reducing Abnormal Situation in Ethylene Plant Start Up” and “Use of Dynamic Simulation to Improve Project Operability”.

Members recommended that plant operators start with Human Factors Awareness Training, a web-based resource available from the Energy Institute (EI), an industry group representing the energy industry.

“Human factors are an increasingly important issue for plant operators. As technology continues to improve and plant operations become more complex, we need to improve the way people interact with process control systems,” said Peggy Hewitt, director-ASM Consortium.

“Systems that are simpler to operate and more intuitive for operators can lead to safer and more efficient plants.”

The Honeywell-led ASM Consortium started in 1994 to address customer concerns about the high cost of incidents at their plants such as unplanned shutdowns, fires, explosions, emissions and this was termed Abnormal Situation Management.