Abnormal Situation Staffing Assessment


In today’s economic climate and with the perceived improvements in reliability and safety of our facilities it is increasingly unusual for plants to man for abnormal situations. However one of the biggest concerns expressed by operations personnel is how they are supposed to manage these situations with the personnel they have on duty. This is a very valid concern and one that needs to be addressed, especially as staffing changes are considered.

In order to address this we have developed a complimentary service to our field, console and inside/outside staffing assessments. An Abnormal Situation Staffing Assessment can be performed without having first done the normal staffing assessments however it is highly recommended that these are completed first to ensure that normal staffing levels are adequate.

The methodology assesses the operators’ ability to detect, diagnose and respond. The detection and diagnostic phases are assessed by studying the way the operators’ work and the available management systems, including the control system and its configuration. The response phase is studied using a time-lining technique similar to that used in a Management of Organizational Change study.

Based on this assessment the service can identify any staffing deficiencies and provide suggestions as to addressing them.

Service Description

The typical process for performing an Abnormal Situation Staffing Assessment consists of a few preliminary conversations to determine the particulars of the study. It is recommended that a client team is formed to include, as a minimum, operators, supervision and appropriate members of the safety department.

As the Client, you will need to have access to and provide the following:

  • Basic site data, including the number and type of units, the current operations team structure (who works where and who controls what).

  • Process Flow Diagrams or Block diagrams.

  • Plot plan with enough detail to identify equipment locations.

  • Operating procedures.

  • Site Emergency Plan.

  • PHA reports.

After this initial data is collected and reviewed, we will schedule a site visit to perform the study. The number of UCDS personnel and the duration of the visit will vary depending on the size of the facility and the scope of the study. Site visits typically range from one to two weeks and require one UCDS representative. The study will take the form of a group meeting with the study team and the Client should plan for the availability of these personnel.

After the site visit, UCDS will require a short period to analyze the data and generate a report. This report will contain a full analysis of the Client’s exposure to risk during abnormal situation management.

© 2013 User Centered Design Services


UCDS has in-depth experience in designing control rooms and modifying existing field shelters. Our process is compliant with the ISO 11064 Ergonomic Design Standard for Control Buildings. We interview management, supervision and a significant group of the operators to understand functional requirements, what works well in the existing environment, and identification and correction of problems with the existing design. To learn more Click Here


Situation Awareness

Abnormal situations encompass a range of events outside the “normal” plant operating modes, e.g. trips, fires, explosions, toxic releases or just not reaching planned targets. In the past incidents such as Piper Alpha, Milford Haven, Flixborough, Texas City and the 2003 northeast electrical blackout have all been attributed, at least in part, to a fundamental lack of good situational awareness. Early work of the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium® included a survey of the US petrochemical industry. Based on their research the consortium estimates industry losses of around $20 billion per year from abnormal situations, approximately equal to the total annual profits of that industry. Furthermore these studies indicate that companies achieving Best Practices in operations can improve productivity by 5-12%. To learn more Click Here


Fatigue Alertness Management

We have many customers looking to enhance their shift handover procedures and follow some of the Recommended Practices identified in the API documents; others are focusing attention on fatigue and fatigue countermeasures. We have great solutions for both these topics. For more details please contact Steve Maddox. To learn more Click Here



User Centered Design Services promotes Behavior – Based Safety which is a process that helps employees identify and choose safe behavior over an unsafe one. Safety in the workplace is a combination of three measurable components – the person their environment, and their behavior. To learn more Click Here

About the Control Room Operator Performance Group

The purpose of this group is to share ideas and solutions that contribute to improving the performance of the control room operator. Abnormal situations can be managed safely and effectively if we provide our operators with the right training, workload, environment, and interfaces.