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2010 IBC - Managing risks of control room operations


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Control rooms course organised by IBC. Human factors and control rooms in major hazard industries.

Published in: Engineering
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2010 IBC - Managing risks of control room operations

  1. 1. Tel: 01492 879813 Mob: 07984 284642 Managing the risks of control room operations Andy Brazier
  2. 2. What is a control room?
  3. 3. What is a control room?
  4. 4. Definition A place where a facility or service can be monitored and controlled The hub or command centre for decisions Central location where humans or computers receive data from field sensors. Commands may be transmitted back to remotely controlled equipment or field personnel People that do the monitoring and control - not the control room.
  5. 5. The Brain of a system Soft, shiny, grey-white Multiple parts Located in head Value only make sense in terms of function
  6. 6. Brain relies on human senses Control rooms deny operators the use of their senses How does this affect their capability?
  7. 7. System visibility Limited possibilities for many systems CCTV can provide some compensation Essential or nice to have?
  8. 8. Connection with the real world Only outside view – Middle of desert in Oman!
  9. 9. Operators using their hearing Pouring molten iron – crane driver could not hear the pops and bangs that warn of a problem Gas plant operators not recognising the noise – stunt plane practicing nearby.
  10. 10. What do Control Room Operators do? Control – monitor – operate Normal Situations Communication - face to face including handovers Other communication - radio/telephone Administrative tasks Eat meals Issue permits-to-work Training - themselves and others.
  11. 11. What do Control Room Operators do? Emergency situations Raise the alarm Notify emergency services Co-ordinate communication Keep the log Accounting for personnel Monitor process for escalation.
  12. 12. Other control room users Field operators - Supervisors Maintenance staff - Emergency response Benefits of them using the control room Improved communication Involving the control room operator – teamwork Access to all information Potential negatives Distraction Confusion – who is in charge?
  13. 13. Getting the balance right Keeping people out Locating them in the control room
  14. 14. Changes in the Control Room New technology More automation Less people More remote A different job More passive More lonely More responsibility.
  15. 15. The impact of modern control rooms Benefits Relieve people of boring, unpleasant and potentially hazardous tasks More consistent and reliable operation Negative outcomes Operators overloaded with alarms and data Non-intuitive interfaces – people have to work harder A smaller ‘window’ on the system Over reliance on technology Managers becoming more distant from the operators.
  16. 16. Problems with alarms Typical 70% - Low priority 90% - High priority 80% - Medium? Operator perspective 70% - High priority 90% - Low priority 92% - Very high Overflow at 100% Trip at 90% 10% in 15 minutes
  17. 17. More alarms must be better philosophy 1992 Vax system operating 6 machines – much better alarms than 2004 Windows XP system operating 3 machines Past – every alarm had a cost Now – just a line of code
  18. 18. Engineers’ graphics Using Piping and Instrumentation Drawings to design graphics – they are not drawn with that use in mind
  19. 19. Multiple options for emergency shutdown Operators don’t want to have make have choices in an emergency
  20. 20. Other technology Cordless phones – what happens in a power failure? Remote access – why visit the control room? Manager can monitor on holiday
  21. 21. Approaches to control room design Two contrasting views that result in poor design All control rooms look the same – little to be considered in design Control rooms required specialist designers – leave them to get on with it with minimal input from others Uncontrolled modifications Different approaches used Re-instrumentation – run by instrument engineers Process improvement – run by operations Organisational – run by business managers
  22. 22. Balanced approach to end user involvement Important (essential) – but requires some care Choice of furniture – how it looks Larger large display – without identifying a need Control graphics – same as existing Manage expectations Resistance to change is inevitable ‘User centred not ‘user led.’
  23. 23. Plausible on paper Console desk only 500mm wide – typical 1000mm
  24. 24. New into old Leg space!
  25. 25. 25 Lone operator
  26. 26. Human capabilities Abilities Limitations Still on Version 1
  27. 27. Hazards for control room staff Normal workplace (similar to an office) Slips, trips and falls Electricity Fire Nature of the job Lack of physical activity Mental exertion External events Fire, explosions, toxic release Terrorism.
  28. 28. Hazards to others Operating errors – doing things wrong Failure to detect, diagnose and respond to abnormal events Consequences can be devastating Not addressed by ‘normal’ risk assessments or evaluations focussed purely on control room arrangements.
  29. 29. Nature of the Control Room Job Features that make a job satisfying The Modern CRO Skill variety Lots of monitoring, not much action Task significance Lots of automation - CRO responds when things go wrong Task identity CRO responsible for large number of plants/systems Autonomy Minimal - working to very tight specifications Task feedback Aim is to avoid upsets and incidents
  30. 30. Common themes Too many distractions in control rooms Nuisance alarms Visitors, contractors, day staff Fatigue because it is difficult for control room operators to get quality breaks Less face-to-face communication within teams Unreliable radios Procedures unsuitable for new ways of working Over reliance on informal training Inadequate refresher training Reducing levels of supervision.
  31. 31. Conclusions A control room is only a component in a system A tool for people to operate the system A new/upgraded control room is a major change Usually multiple drivers Can fundamentally change the way people work End user involvement is essential, but only as part of a ‘user centred’ approach Do not assume that using the latest technology and applying the latest standards will guarantee a successful control room