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Alarm handling for health monitoring: Operator strategies used in an electrical control room of a rail network

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David GolightlyORCiD


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© Institution of Mechanical Engineers 2016. Alarm management is a key component of the successful operation of a prognostic or health-monitoring technology. Although alarms can alert the operator to critical information, false alarms and alarm flooding can cause major difficulties for successfully diagnosing and acting upon infrastructure faults. Human factors approaches seek to design more-effective alarm systems through a deep understanding of the contextual factors that influence alarm response, including strategies and heuristics used by operators. This paper presents an extensive analysis of alarm-handling activity in the setting of an Electrical Control Room on the rail network. The analysis is based on contextual observation, and the application of a time-stamped observation checklist. Functions, performance requirements, and general operating conditions that influence alarm handling are presented, delineating the typical operational constraints that need to be considered in the design and deployment of asset-based alarm systems. The analysis of specific alarm-handling incidents reveals the use of specific strategies that may bias operator performance. Implications for the design of health-monitoring systems are discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dadashi N, Wilson JR, Golightly D, Sharples S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit

Year: 2016

Volume: 230

Issue: 5

Pages: 1415-1428

Print publication date: 01/07/2016

Online publication date: 07/06/2016

Acceptance date: 06/03/2016

ISSN (print): 0954-4097

ISSN (electronic): 2041-3017

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/0954409715593574


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