ABB: Understand Safety Vision

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 @ 06:03 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
When it comes to safety technology is key, but users should not get caught up in the bells and whistles of the latest and greatest offerings. Rather, they should make smart choices and understand their safety vision.

“Technology is a tool and we as humans have to decide how to use those tools,” said Luis Duran, product marketing manager for safety systems at ABB during his Wednesday talk entitled “Human factors and their impact on plant safety,” during the ABB Automation & Power World 2015 in Houston. “Plants have changed and technology has changed. Technology has been in the process industry for a long time. We can’t be caught up in the flashiness of it.”

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Duran said there were $20 billion in annual losses in the process industry with 80 percent of that being preventable and, additionally, operating errors make up 42 percent, or $6.7 billion of that total.

He was then able to categorized two types of human errors, purely human errors and human errors that technology can address.

Purely human elements are:
• Organizational change
• Safety culture and blame
• Staffing levels
• Fatigue
• Communications and shift handover

Human factors that technology can address:
• Ergonomics
• Alarm handling
• Training
• Maintenance errors
• Compliance with safety critical procedures

That is where the safety vision thing comes in.

“Organizations with a vigorous safety culture are in a more secure position to avoid accidents,” Duran said.

In the end, it all comes down to risk management and “what risk we are willing to accept,” he said. If a company has a safety culture and a safety vision they would create a statement of culture, a framework to live the vision, communication of that vision, verification of the effectiveness and a risk management strategy.

When looking at the technologies that can support the human element, Duran said ergonomics need to be efficient and motivating. The display design needs to have fast detection and eliminate any disturbances. Alarm handling needs to allow for continuous analysis to avoid nuisance alarms and help the operator focus on important events in the process.

Avoid an Incident
Duran said it has been almost 10 years since the Texas City BP refinery explosion and that was a perfect case where the human factor ended up playing a big role in the blast.

On March 23, 2005 at the Texas City refinery, a geyser of flammable hydrocarbon liquid and vapor erupted from a blowdown stack, which ignited creating a huge fire, resulting in 15 deaths and 180 injuries.

Also, when it comes to the human element, technology and safety systems, no discussion would be complete with a discussion of integrated safety and control.

“There is more adoption of these principals than ever before,” Duran said.

There are great benefits of an integrated safety and control system, like lower engineering costs, lower training expense, easier time synchronization and improved asset and event management, but Duran also mentioned some of the challenges, including increased risk of common cause failure, the need for a careful design to ensure BPCS failure does not affect the safety instrumented system (SIS), and greater management challenges.

“The goal is to have better operator response to an abnormal condition at the plant,” he said.

In order to fight off any abnormal situation, operators need all the help they can get to ensure a safe process environment.

“Take advantage of technology,” Duran said. “Use technology to manage human change. A safe plant is a well performing plant.”

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