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Gaps in Conduct of Operations

To help operators respond to alarms and manage abnormal situations quickly and correctly, they have to be vigilant, competent, responsible, and predictive. We must identify the gaps in operational standards and behaviors and improve Conduct by putting the right management systems and tools in place. The-end-result will be, High performance operators and supervisors that meet the demands of the business and are able to sustain the loss of experienced workers while attracting new operators that are a good fit for the job.

Common Weaknesses in Operations:

•Operator Selection not formalized or based on who makes a great operator

•Roles and Responsibilities Not Clearly Defined (job profiles or job description lack clear roles and responsibilities)

•Training / Testing for console operators is an issue

•Fatigue Mitigation not a formalized program

•Shift Schedule / Excessive Overtime / fit for work and employee health issues are rising

Procedure Management is a major issue

•Communication – breakdowns between the control room, the field, maintenance activities

•MOC / or out of service practices have poor discipline

•Shift Handover is not formalalized using a procedure

•Not enough Engineering support for automation projects

•Improper Staffing / Unbalanced Workload CR and field

•No documented MOC practice for Managing Organizational Changes

•Poor situation awareness in control rooms (major issue)

•HMI Displays based on P&ID’s (data overload) Overview displays poorly designed

•Alarm Management – alarms are still failing to be an effective tool

•Consoles and # of Screens are provided without addressing display design first

•Control Room Design by non operator experienced people (architects, console vendors, contractors, and technology companies throw in CR design to sell products)

•Permitting / Lockout/Tag Out – been an issue for a long time

•Bypassing safety Interlocks (poor culture/ poor discipline)

•Operator Rounds are laxed

•House keeping issues

•Equipment Ownership is a major issue for field operations and maintenance

•And Supervision or continuous improvement – on the job coaching is not routine – supervisors don’t have time to supervise anymore – supervisors are stuck doing desk work that in most cases can be automated with digitization

If you review the image above, it clearly shows that it’s not a single gap that leads to an incident or downtime, it’s gaps in several practices that eventually line up at the right time. Each weakness must be identified, someone has to be responsible for implementing best practice, and maintaining best practice. Multiple people will have clearly defined responsibilities to ensure operational gaps are eliminated in their departments. Continuous monitoring and effectiveness evaluations will ensure that workers are doing the jobs right, using the tools, and management systems correctly on every job and every task.

Conduct of Operations means you develop standards to improve performance like an alarm management philosophy or an HMI philosophy, you should absolutely have a Procedure philosophy – a best practice document that everyone is trained on. It leaves no questions and needs no interpretation. It is an easy to understand site standard. It clearly states that each procedure will have an owner, and each owner will have the responsibility in maintaining specific procedures and ensuring they are being used correctly. It is a comprehensive document that includes ergonomic formatting and use of images and check lists.

Procedure Management is just one example of a site standard that is missing in many facilities. Another one is Shift Turnover, which falls under communication and training. Don’t get me started on Training, I’ll speak to that in another article. Hope to hear from some control and operations manager that want to improve Conduct of Operations and Operator Discipline: /