System Integration & Control Systems Design

Changing negative attitudes towards alarms

June 2021 System Integration & Control Systems Design

The easiest way to avoid disasters at an industrial facility is if personnel quickly identify and act upon, imminent danger. Unfortunately, as simple as it sounds, many facilities have struggled to implement this approach over the years. Unsurprisingly, slow operator response has been cited as being responsible for several high-profile incidents, including the fire at the Buncefield oil storage depot in Milford Haven and the Texaco oil refinery plant explosion in Pembroke.

Typically, the simplest solution is the most effective and that is why alarm annunciators remain key pieces of mission-critical safety systems to this day. Alarm annunciators are panel-based alarms that are hard-wired directly into relevant safety-critical processes. If an abnormal event occurs, the relevant window on the panel lights up and the alarm emits a sound, immediately giving operators the necessary information to act quickly.

Put checks in place

It is common sense that operator response time is hugely important in a crisis and can be the deciding factor in avoiding serious consequences. With an alarm annunciator having a fixed matrix display format, operators know the nature and scale of the problem at a glance due to pattern recognition, compared to the complexity of a PC-based system screen.

Worryingly though, there have been recent reports of operators adopting a culture of ignoring local alarms and not taking appropriate action quickly, if at all. To combat this, many companies are turning to remote monitoring technology to monitor the status of their hardwired alarm annunciators. This has several benefits for site managers looking to increase the likelihood of on-site operators responding to alarms quickly and efficiently.

Firstly, it offers peace of mind for facility managers worried about on-site safety because they can access all live and historical alarm data whenever necessary. Next, the increased accountability and traceability that comes with remote monitoring technology improves the chances of operators responding to local alarms. And finally, alarm annunciators equipped with remote monitoring capabilities can be configured to send direct push notifications to relevant personnel using SMS and email whenever there is an abnormal event. This means asset managers and engineers are all aware of the problem and can ensure action is taken.

All Omniflex’s alarm annunciators exceed the latest safety requirements and include an Ethernet interface, as well as built-in alarm logging. Furthermore, they are supplied with individual hardwired repeat relay outputs that facilitate further connection possibilities.


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