Why alarm systems should not be exceeding perceptual and cognitive capabilities?
In the General Requirements of the Norwegian’s Petroleum Directorate’s “Principle for alarm system design”, YA-711 of February 2001, it is specified that the alarm system shall be explicitly designed to take into account the human factors and limitations. “The design should ensure that the alarm system remains usable in all process conditions, by ensuring that unacceptable demands are not placed on operators by exceeding their perceptual and cognitive capabilities.”
These General Requirements were created based upon investigations and findings which led to the EEMUA 191 Guidelines. ANSI/ISA 18.2 and IEC 62682 also recommend taking into account the ability of the operator to carry out all his functions related to the alarm system. If you want to design an adequate alarm system or if you want to improve an existing one, it is mandatory to consider the person who will be responsible for responding to alarms annunciated and understand that this person, as any human being, has limitations in the perceptual and cognitive processing of the information presented. This paper will try to explain this perceptual and cognitive processing, its limitations and present some of the possible solutions.
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