One step ahead of the law

Human Factors and Primary Legislation

As a Human Factors professional, one thing you get used to is a lack of attention given to the topic by those who define and codify the law. Typically HF issues fall under the ‘duty of care’ and ‘as far as reasonably practicable…’ general duties. Interpretation and meaning is added at the regulator level. Two events over the recent months therefore came as a welcome surprise.

The first is the Codes of Federal Regulation (CFRs) relating to the transport of hazardous materials in pipelines in the USA (49 CFR parts 192 and 195). These form part of the body of primary legislation and are mandatory for pipeline operators in the US or that cross the border into and out of the US. Rather unusually at this level of legislation, explicit requirements are given for HF topics such as Alarm Systems, provision of information to controllers (operators), competence, roles and responsibilities, and management of fatigue. The regulations take a sophisticated view of some of these topics. So, for example, the fatigue management area considers elements such as ensuring your controllers are competent to recognise the symptoms and consequences of fatigue, as well as the usual management requirements. For this detailed level of requirement to have been implemented in legislation will have had scrutiny at the highest level of government. This has to be a good thing for our discipline and for process safety in general. Hopefully other areas of hazardous processes outside pipeline management will pay attention to this development.

The second development is the arrival of the Seveso III directive in July (or more properly, Directive 2013/18/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances, amending and subsequently repealing Council Directive 96/82/EC). One thing that was worth noting (for a process industry and operations focussed person like me at least) was the provisions of annex III, where under the section on operational control the topic of alarm management gets an explicit mention. Again, something of a surprise at this level of legislation.

It’s nice to see the legislators catching up with the regulators and with industry best practice! Hopefully the lessons of human behaviours and capabilities will continue toward their place at the forefront of process safety.

Image credit: Halfd via flickr

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About the author

Tony Atkinson

I lead the ABB Consulting Operational Human Factors team. I've spent over 30 years in the process industries, working in control rooms around the world, in the fields of ergonomics, control and alarm systems, control room design and operational and cultural issues such as communications, competency and fatigue. I've been blogging on diverse topics that interest me in the widest sense of 'human factors', all of which share the same common element, the 'Mk.1 Human Being' and their unique limitations, abilities and behaviours. I'll discuss the technical and organisational issues that affect safety and performance of these process safety operators and technicians and how this impacts control rooms and the wider plant. However learning comes from many places and you can expect entries about aviation, automotive, marine, healthcare, military and many other fields. Outside of work, I indulge in travel, food, wine and flying kites to keep myself moderately sane. Please feel free to post your comments on each post. Blog entries are posted with no set frequency. To ensure you don't miss out on the latest blog post, click the button below to subscribe to email alerts when a new blog has been posted.
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