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Human Factors books to read

It’s 2013 folks…and we are off and running! Well, that’s the theory anyways. As for me, I have not done any running for a while. Last year while travelling the world I ruptured my Achilles tendon which was not much fun. When I got back from Hawaii last December, I went straight to the hospital and had the surgeon sew it back together. That was not fun, so up until now I have not travelled this year so far.

During my time at home I have taken the Homeland Security training for Chemical-terrorism Vulnerability Information Authorized User Certification. I thought this was really good so I have had UCDS take the course and get the certificate. I also took the Chemical Security Awareness Training, so we can be sharper in this area for our customers. Finally, I have taken a study in mitigating potential terrorist attacks against buildings which fits into our Conceptual Design package.

Dave, Christi and Harry have been taking the impact of the travel for me, while I have been at home doing PT and writing my next book, which is going extremely well. I believe you will all be excited to get a copy when it is released. I have also been doing some interviews with Jim Montague for Control Magazine, one of my favorite reading journals.

We are working on the final stages of the new UCDS website. I have not seen it yet but Steve is very busy with Jason and his team. Our goal is to provide more useful and meaningful information to our clients and readers and demonstrate why we are the go to company for control rooms and associated services.

Dave and Christi are very busy doing staffing assessments for operator workload and quite a few PHMSA CRM audits, together with a large number of control room projects. Harry and team are still working through their mining project plant startup documentation, I think they are going to busy for a while, the customer is really happy, so life is good.

I recently talked to an individual who has been doing all the right things and doing them the right way and a single operator has derailed their whole project. He is not one of our customers but one of our affiliates seeking some advice. When I reviewed what their customer had done, he was doing a terrific job and he had done everything with the operations department behind him, however, in hindsight what he had not done was getting the vision sold to upper management. This is not uncommon; people work well in the lower levels within their organization and can identify with the needs of their people. They do a good job selling the vision to the rank and file but do not consider their management team. Then it only takes one to derail the whole effort, for the wrong reasons or funding to be redirector elsewhere.

We have suggested many times to our customers that before taking on a Human Factor solution they must really understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. As we consider control room projects, they can be the control room itself, the control system replacement or specific updates to the control system such as a new HMI or HP HMI, rationalization of the alarm management system.

We have for a number of years encompassed these under the umbrella topic of Situation Awareness and we recommend every customer participate in our Situation Awareness Workshop which can be one, two or three days in length. Over three days we go into a lot of detail and obviously with just one day we do a very simple overview, which often is sufficient for the savvy customer.

What we are doing in these workshops is demonstrating why the current industrial practices using traditional colorful DCS displays, and lots and lots of alarms does not work, and how many customers like Texaco Pembroke, BP Texas City and Esso Longford and many others have gotten themselves into big trouble.

Many customers believe they understand Situation Awareness, but when challenged they have a very poor understanding of the topic and have never read any Human Factors books on the topic. I have a couple of favorites; one is Mica Endsley’s book – Designing for Situation Awareness an approach to User Centered Design. This is an extremely good book and everyone in our industry should read about the Demons of Situation Awareness.

James Reason has two books one called simply Human Error and the other again one of my favorite books to read over and over again is “Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents” which is the result of poor Situation Awareness and compromising Situation Awareness through the Demon’s Mica describes.

While these books are good they are not specifically targeted at the processing industry so Doug Rothenberg my old friend from the ASM Consortium day’s and myself are writing a book specifically for our industry.

He will be bringing his alarm management knowledge and many years of industrial service to this book, likewise I will be sharing my 40 plus years’ experience in industry, and my years as the Program Director of the ASM Consortium into the book. People don’t realize how much research was done in the initial years and how much of it has not been published yet.

It is unfortunate that the Consortium got distracted by productization and the research folk’s bias to a single technological solution. The customer’s got distracted by the promise of a silver bullet that has never materialized.

One of the most powerful lessons that was learned in the those early day’s was from the Effective Operations Practices that were observed around the world and addressing many of the bad practices in our industry that are clearly aligned with many of the Demons described in Mica’s book. Interesting how other industries like the aircraft industry have experienced similar issues but have fixed them, yet we have not learned the lessons and sought the solutions from them!

We have a couple of good books coming soon that will help to correct these problems. Also watch for the new website and social media we are currently working on. As for me I am walking again and getting ready to start travelling to your sites again and I look forward to catching up with many of you. I have a busy schedule planned for March, but now we have more staff this will free me up to get to more places and meet with more people.

If you are interested in any of our workshops or site visits please contact Steve Maddox or Sales Director, his contact details are available on the website.