Uncovering Unknown Risks with a Safety Risk Assessment and Analysis

Posted by Gene Niewoehner on May 16, 2012 @ 7:55 am

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." This quote from former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, (Feb. 12, 2002) was the subject of a lot of jokes.  But it's a very accurate summation of what you do and do not know when you kickoff any project. Safety is an obvious component to all project risk mitigation plans. Organizations are compelled by regulatory, financial and other cultural reasons to implement safety risk assessments. The safety assessment and risk analysis becomes an important discipline that reduces the risk of liability duri... Continue Reading

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Control is in the Details

Posted by Karl Schrader on May 15, 2012 @ 8:02 am

Over the range of projects we work on, we find ourselves constantly shifting focus from very distant overhead views to the minutest details. For the most part, we tend to relate the big picture information effects to big picture decisions. After all, little detail oriented decisions really only affect a component level change. While we certainly do not hold these guidelines to be law, these concepts oftentimes cloud our judgment and narrow our view of root cause options. Sometimes something small can have a big picture effect. Web handling encoder rounding One of my favorite instances of a very small detail affecting an overall system is one concerning the encoder configuration of a servo motor. This particular problem grew out of a need for frequent tooling changes on a web handling machine that operated continuously. It was used to cut a web into sheets with a ve... Continue Reading

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Is Your Control System Training Program Up-to-Date?

Posted by Bill Stewart on May 9, 2012 @ 8:02 am

When it comes to control system training, you’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase said to new folks: “In my day, you applied common horse sense, some on-the-job-training and a couple of days of following me around. After that you just ask questions. Do you have any for me now?” Now, if I was instructing someone on how to rake leaves or sweep out the garage—the above conversation would probably work.  But if you want to ensure that new engineers, operators and maintenance personnel who interact with the control system everyday are capable of doing so, then we need to teach them to be them more sophisticated. First, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is your control system architecture documented and current?
  2. Do you have security in place to prevent unauthorized or qualified people from accessing set points?
  3. Is there a clear lin... Continue Reading

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HART: New Lease On Life

Posted by Sergei Kuznetsov on May 8, 2012 @ 8:56 am

Working in our industry it is impossible to avoid bumping into the HART Communication protocol. Introduced in the mid-1980s by Rosemount as an attempt to find an inexpensive, almost trial way to get more information from smart field instrumentation, it later developed into something that finds its way back even when it seems to have outlived its purpose. I won’t get into the details as to when, why, and how the HART standard was developed and how it works. It’s common domain information, but in a nutshell it utilizes low-frequency carrier to communicate digitally with intelligent field instruments. For point-to-point connection with an instrument, even the existing 4-20 mA cables can be used – leaving the main variable to the current signal and using digital communications for auxiliary information. It’s the best of both ... Continue Reading

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Pardon me, your Slip is Showing!

Posted by Lori Hayes on May 2, 2012 @ 8:58 am

The corporate world we live in today relies on the information highway, an interconnected network system where business transactions are carried out in cyber space. Left undiscovered, a system’s vulnerability can lead to Intellectual Property (IP) loss, financial loss and confidential data exposure. In the Industrial Control System (ICS), hidden vulnerabilities can be exploited through malware, such as viruses and trojans, and can cause similar outcomes including unpredictable operations and expensive downtime, resulting in a loss of production and compromised safety systems. Can this really happen to you? Not so new to the cyber neighborhood are vulnerability researchers that look closely at ICS software and systems. The best outcome is that any vulnerability information is given directly to you or the Computer Emergency Readiness Team) (CERT), enabling a planne... Continue Reading

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