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Updated alarm management guidelines

10 December 2013

EEMUA, the Engineering Equipment & Materials Users’ Association, has launched the Third Edition of EEMUA Publication 191 ‘Alarm systems: a guide to design, management and procurement.’ Suzanne Gill finds out more.

The new 2013 Edition of EEMUA 191 offers revised guidance on the design, management and procurement of effective alarm systems. New additions to the guidelines include chapters on HCI management techniques and alarm configuration, and also include appendices covering alarm suppression; geographically distributed processes; intelligent fault detection; requirements for alarms; and supporting checklists. Following the guidance given in the EEMUA 191 Third Edition should result in better alarm systems, that are more usable and that result in safer and more cost-effective industrial operations.

EEMUA 191 is considered by many as the globally accepted guide to good practice for alarm management. It should be of interest to those with responsibility for safety and quality improvement through efficient and effective use of alarm handling systems, or those working directly or indirectly with alarm systems in chemical, pharmaceutical, petrochemical and other process industries, the energy exploration and generation sector, and related industry sectors. Commenting on the guidelines, Clive Tayler, EEMUA chief executive, said: "A particular strength of EEMUA 191 is that it was developed by the users of alarm systems in industry. The first and second editions have sold thousands of copies worldwide, formed the basis of training courses internationally and led to the production of related publications, such as EEMUA 201, which deals with human-machine interfaces."

Broadened guidelines
 Commenting on some of the highlights of the revised guidelines, John Lilley, Technical Lead - Electrical, Instrumentation & Control at EEMUA said: “In the Third Edition we have broadened the guidelines. In addition to looking at continuous processing industries, we are also now looking at batch and geographically distributed industries, such as gas and water.”

This is a significant extension to the scope of the guide, which previously focussed more on the petrochemical and power industries. “We have added around 80 pages to the original 170 page publication. It has been completely revised and reviewed by EEMUA’s instrumentation and control technical committee. We also involved an industry review group - consisting of the main alarm vendors - who had an input into the revised guidelines. The Health & Safety Executive in the UK has also reviewed it in detail,” said Lilley. A spokesperson from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said: “This guidance sets out sensible, proportionate, reasonable and balanced advice to owners on the design, management and procurement of alarm systems.”

In terms of new content to the guide, Lilley went on to explain how EEMUA has looked in detail at the principles of alarm design in the system of alarm management and added a whole new chapter on human-computer interface (HCI) management techniques. “There is a great deal of work being done on human factors currently in the area of standardisation,” he said.  “We are well positioned in that regard because we have already produced EEMUA 201 which deals with human-machine interfaces. 

“There were no standards for alarm management, so EEMUA 191 really has filled a gap. Indeed, subsequent standardisation efforts have all followed the principles and the assumptions of EEMUA 191,” he said.

The subject of alarm suppression has also been covered in more detail in the Third Edition. “We have included a flow chart to show the basic sequences for suppression,” explained Lilley.  “So wherever their starting point, users now have a flow diagram that can be used to identify whether alarm masking is necessary, and advising on what type of masking to employ.  The guidelines also  discuss the different methods of suppression, and offer a series of general suppression rules that should be applied to alarms.”

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