What Have We Learned?

Feb. 23, 2012
Results of our online polls often provide insights you can use.

There are numerous reasons we poll our readers every month on ChemicalProcessing.com. For one, it's a great way to get your inputs about important subjects. We learn your view about key developments and trends and how your site is dealing with crucial issues. We use this information to help guide our editorial coverage. Such polls also can provide immediate value to you by allowing you to compare or benchmark your inputs against those of others in real time. .


So what have we learned lately? Well, 72% of you report the number of abnormal situations occurring at your site has increased (16%) or significantly increased (56%) compared to five years ago. Only a handful of respondents noted that abnormal situations have decreased (10%) or significantly decreased (4%). 

This doesn't come as a surprise to us as we often write about abnormal situations and alarm management. Such articles are often in the Top 10 of articles viewed on our site. In fact, a recent article -- How Many Alarms Can an Operator Handle? – is the No. 4 top article read since it was posted to our site in early December 2011.

That article examined two studies of alarm management, one in which engineering and construction-management  students dealt with alarms, and the other in which actual refinery operators and pipeline controllers handled alarms. The two studies together provided insights about the value of an experienced operator, and raised questions about whether accepted targets for alarms are correct and whether operators could handle more alarms.

This should be compelling reading for of the majority of poll respondents who noted an increase in the number of abnormal situations over the past five years.

Another telling poll question dealt with the workforce. We asked, Over the next five years, how will retirement of "baby boomers" affect your site?

Nearly half (46%) of respondents said this would have a significant impact on their sites. Only 6% reckoned retiring workers wouldn't have an impact at all.

A few years ago we addressed this issue. The cover story, Retirement: Companies Keep Know-how in Place, explored how the large numbers of retiring engineers is forcing the chemical industry to retrieve as much useful information as possible from aging staffs. According to the article, too many firms talk the talk but don't walk the walk. It appears that this is still the case if our poll results are any indication of what's happening – or not happening – at facilities today.

Be sure to participate in our polls every month. You can access the Quick Poll via our homepage. It is located in the right-hand column about halfway down the page. We report the poll results in the InProcess section of each issue of Chemical Processing magazine. You can also view previous poll results by clicking on the link in each poll question.

Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing's Senior Digital Editor and master pollster. You can ask her your own questions by e-mailing her at[email protected].

On the social media front, be sure to check out her page.

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