SA Defined

In reality, for most industries, the operator is not the true cause of accidents and incidents, but rather the final participant in a process of system that includes multiple inherent problems and difficulties.

Operators are often required to work with highly demanding, complex systems. In today’s world, they face data and technology overload. They are armed with scores of procedures and checklists that in truth, further increase the complexity of the system they are working within.

It’s a major challenge. The solution will lie in understanding how people process the vast amount of data around them to achieve effective performance.

Situation Awareness involves 3 key elements:
• perceiving critical factors in the environment
• understanding what those factors signify
• understanding what will happen with the situation in the near future

Situation Awareness as a causal factor for accidents

From industry to industry, problems with SA have been found to be leading causal factors for incidents.

Situation Awareness was cited as the critical failure leading to the 2003 power blackout in the US and Canada, and continues to challenge the power transmission and distribution industry:
• lack of real time information on global state of system
• plethora of alarms leading to ‘cry wolf’ syndrome
• support for diagnostics and projection of future events is limited
• lack of shared situation awareness across various distributed control centres and reliability coordinators

Situation Awareness and the mining industry

The mining industry is also challenged by many factors that affect SA, including:
• limited visibility due to lighting conditions and dust
• poor visibility from vehicles
• noise, vibration
• distributed operations
• introduction of new technology in a ‘piecemeal’ fashion
• introduction of automation: can lower SA of the state of ongoing operations

With the high consequence outcomes of human error, from expensive equipment damage and production delays, to serious injury or loss of life, building higher levels of SA is critical.

Solving SA failures

SA failure solutions are achieved by redesigning the tools provided to the operator to:
• insure all necessary information is provided clearly and consistently with human perceptual characteristics and cognitive abilities
• provide support for coping with multi-tasking challenges
• build-in support for the higher levels of SA (comprehension and projection) into the system displays
• make sure that new automated systems, alarm panels and other critical safety systems are designed taking into account how people actually understand and interact with such technologies

Finally, training programs can be specifically designed to build up key cognitive mechanisms to underlie good SA.

**Source: SA Technologies