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With systems getting more complex and sophisticated, the potential for error becomes smaller, but when that error does occur, it becomes even more complicated for humans to intervene. That is where the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) Consortium comes in.
Process safety and environmental impact gained a stronger focus at the ASM Consortium’s 2010 Quarterly Review Meeting last week on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles.
“The incident in the Gulf of Mexico has heightened the fact that process safety, if ignored, can lead to abnormal situations with costly and disruptive consequences,” said Peggy Hewitt, ASM Consortium director.
“Minimizing the impact of incidents such as this one involves addressing all three of the potential causal areas; process, equipment and people,” she said.
The goal of the ASM Consortium is to improve process safety, reliability and efficiency in process plants by bringing together plant experience, with human factors engineering and the latest technologies. By reducing situations that cause things like unplanned downtime, it is possible for the plant to become more productive and therefore increase revenues.
Members of the consortium which include industrial manufacturers, vendors, and universities that collaborate to research best practices for managing abnormal situations in industrial facilities gathered last week to discuss current research and development activities. The meeting is a platform for members to share benefits gained from ASM practices and products, and to discuss new challenges faced in plant operations.
Other topics covered at the June quarterly review meeting include: Alarm management continuous improvement project; identifying ASM competencies; interactions requirements analysis; visualization of valve information for operators; alarm management solutions, and implementation of procedural automation.
The ASM Consortium started in 1994 to address concerns about the high cost of incidents at plants such as unplanned shutdowns, fires, explosions, and emissions. They called this topic Abnormal Situation Management. After garnering funding from NIST, the consortium was able to spend several years researching and developing highly-advanced concepts to address the problem of abnormal situations. Since then, research has continued and an increasing effort has gone into development and deployment of ASM solutions that incorporate ASM knowledge.
The basis of the ASM Consortium is collaboration and information-sharing. By working together and pooling knowledge, members can get more than they could by working alone.
The ASM Principles are:
• Not by technology alone
• People play a major role in avoiding or mitigating plant upsets
• Systems should be designed for the abnormal not just normal
• Systems should be designed for adaptation
Current ASM Consortium members include: BP, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Sasol, Total, Shell, Honeywell, HCS, UCLA, MaryKay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M, NTU, and Penn State.
Non-members can benefit from ASM Research as ASM Best Practices Guidelines for Alarm Management, Display Design and Procedural Practices are available for purchase on

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