Procedure – n. (1) act or manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct, (2) a particular course or mode of action.
A recent client asked our opinion of their emergency procedures. I wanted to laugh and tell him that the procedures were worthless. Instead, I stated a different truth – “They’re typical for the industry.” Beville rarely criticizes procedures anymore; the problem is so pervasive and recalcitrant that it hasn’t merited the effort. Due to a variety of factors, the bottom line is that procedures seem to have no effect on plant operation. Yet, operators are always on special assignment writing new procedures that no one will use.
Typically, the procedures have low utility and value, and possibly in an effort to counter this, the number of procedures has skyrocketed at most plants. More procedures, written and rewritten by different people, usually mean more chances of inconsistency, and, therefore, operator error if they are actually used. As the number of procedures grows, the ability to make widespread formatting and content changes becomes exponentially more difficult. Soon, if not already, plants will be saddled with worthless documents that are too expensive to fix but must be maintained/propagated in the name of “safe operation”.
Many plants also use procedures for training. Unfortunately, this results in both poor emergency procedures and poor training manuals. The value of emergency procedures is seen in their real-time use, which is rare. Excuses are plentiful: too hard to find, too bulky, too wordy, not applicable, and so on.
Currently, their single greatest value seems to be that they fulfill a regulatory requirement; they check a box. What must one do to create usable procedures? While not comprehensive, the following should be considered:
Using these human factors guidelines as a start, it is possible to create valuable, usable emergency procedures.
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