Situation Awareness


Situation Awareness, as the name implies, is the ability of the operator to be aware of the systems in their operating environment. They consist of the DCS Control and Instrumentation system that provides feedback to the console operator on the plant equipment, the process variables, and the instrumentation system.

The interface is usually via DCS graphics so the design of the User or Human Machine Interface (HMI) and the alarm management system is critical to successful awareness. If the HMI is not sharp and easy to navigate the overview and details will be lost. UCDS has developed the principles of High Performance HMI to provide the most proactive user interface. The role of the alarm system is to make the control operator aware of a problem they have not noticed on the HMI. It is a reactive action and has limits and, if not designed correctly, will overwhelm operators and compromise situation awareness.

The second system is communication with the unit field operators who are the eyes, ears and hands of the console operator. Communication is usually via radio, phone and sometimes face-to-face. It is important that the tools used are reliable, free from distortion and that the operators are trained in their effective use , such as proper use of radio protocols. It is also important to develop team building techniques so as everyone is aware of the needs of the team and not just personal goals.

The third system involves understanding what is happening on connected units or utility suppliers. This is achieved via monitoring their DCS data through DCS screens or large off-workstations in the form of Large Screen Displays (LSD) in the control room. Information is sometimes collected casually through overhearing radio conversations or discussion with supervisors, but ideally one-on-one between the operators. It is therefore imperative that face-to-face communications are designed using good control room layout that considers console adjacencies.

The fourth system is business information which consists of laboratory results of sampling, management communications through emails describing plant changes, operating targets and potential problems. This is normally delivered electronically through a PC located on the operating console but may also be communicated by line supervision.

UCDS Inc. provides services to promote good Situation Awareness and through our standard service offerings we address all of the systems mentioned above. The design of the control room, the console and the HMI is a specialist activity and should not be split between different disciplines. Designers should have industrial operations experience, engineering controls experience and a Human Factor/Ergonomic background.



© 2013 User Centered Design Services

Technical

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

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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

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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

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Behavior

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

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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.