Saved by the Bell: Using Alarm Management to make Your Plant Safer

Recent industrial accidents at Texas City, Buncefield (UK) and Institute, WV have highlighted the connection between poor alarm management and process safety incidents. At Texas City key level alarms failed to notify the operator of the unsafe and abnormal conditions that existed within the tower and blowdown drum. The resulting explosion and fire killed 15 people and injured 180 more.1 The tank overflow and resultant fire at the Buncefield Oil Depot resulted in a £1 billion (1.6 billion USD) loss. It could have been prevented if the tank’s high level safety switch, per design, had notified the operator of the high level condition or had automatically shut off the incoming flow.2 At the Bayer facility (Institute, WV) improper procedures, worker fatigue, and lack of operator training on a new control system caused the residue treater to be overcharged with Methomyl – leading to an explosion and chemical release.

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