Energy continues to dominate the headlines, both in the UK and abroad, with constantly changing opinions on how to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy, and to ensure we “keep the lights on”. What remains constant, however, is the need for effective safety and risk management throughout all areas of the energy sector.
Sourcing sustainable energy is one of the biggest challenges facing governments today, with global energy consumption expected to triple by the end of the 21st century. One of the most cutting-edge projects in the energy sector currently underway is ITER, which will be the world’s largest experimental fusion facility and is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power. Fusion creates energy when light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, and the current fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, limitless and environmentally responsible energy source.
ITER is a first-of-a-kind global collaboration between China, the EU, the United States, India, Japan, Korea and Russia, and marks an important step towards energy security for the future. The ITER facility is being constructed in Cadarache, near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France, and the project aims to achieve First Plasma by 2019.
Tight international regulations on research involving tritium and French Government directives require that the highest levels of safety are maintained on site at all times. But while the science behind the creation of fusion power is cutting-edge, no matter how advanced the technology is, human beings are still at the forefront of every project, and ITER is no different. As such, safety and risk management services – and in particular design solutions and human factors engineering – are crucial to the success of the overall project. The inclusion of human factors guidance and management within any project provides the necessary improvements in safety, reliability and efficiency, which are essential in ensuring the highest levels of human performance and the resulting overall efficiency of the project.
Global consultancy ARCADIS has recently been re-appointed, as part of a consortium led by Unisys, to provide safety and risk management services for the ITER project, to help optimise the interaction between technology and employees, reducing risk and accidents during the construction period. The ARCADIS team are based both on site in Cadarache, and in various locations around the world, to maximise efficiency and utilise the expertise of consultants from right across the business. The project team works directly under the Head of Assembly and Operations on site.
As one of the first tasks on the new four year contract, ARCADIS is currently planning the management and delivery of human factors and safety management tasks, including supporting the submissions to the French nuclear regulator in conjunction with the ITER Safety Department. This includes setting up the HMI design process and a simple but effective alarm strategy that is immediately recognised by employees, without being too complicated and confusing for those working at the facility.
The project team is also conducting detailed control room design, to allow the maximum number of staff in and the control room to work as efficiently as possible. The accessibility of the site, including the control rooms, also plays an important part in their work, to ensure the highest level of efficiency for ITER employees working on site. ITER is unique in that high numbers of international visitors will be coming to the site, and particularly because of the size of ITER, the challenge for the specialist human factors consultants is to find a solution to facilitate high numbers of international first-time visitors.
Signage is another important part of ARCADIS’ work in ensuring both safe and practical working conditions in and around the ITER facility. Effective signage requires a combination of usability, safety and practicality. Given the various nationalities present at ITER, the official project language is English. However, due to the high number of French staff/visitors on site and to ensure the local emergency services can reach the site in the minimum amount of time in the rare event of an emergency, the signs must also be in French. ARCADIS is working closely with the ITER public relations and safety departments to ensure that the signage is as effective as possible.
Through this combined safety and risk management work, ARCADIS’ project team will demonstrate to the French regulator that the site meets its stringent safety requirements, which is necessary for ITER to receive its licence to operate. ARCADIS, as part of the four year framework currently in place, will be helping to submit the case to the regulator for safety approval.
As a discipline, ergonomics can be difficult for people to engage with and is often only seen as being a safety requirement. By running training and education schemes, however, discipline specialists can show that ergonomics is beneficial for people at all levels of an organisation. ARCADIS is now looking to raise awareness of ergonomics with staff from each of the seven member nations of the ITER organisation. An education programme, initially targeting discipline heads and senior management, will explain the benefits of involving human factors professionals. This will be delivered through a series of face-to-face seminars and online webinars.
ITER, like so many other projects in the energy sector and beyond, relies heavily on people and their expertise. Training and education programmes play an important part in increasing awareness of and acceptance of the need for ergonomics, and as such will help ensure that the demand for our discipline continues to grow, and we can fulfil our common aim of making the world a safer place.
By Martin Dooley & Daan Purbrick
Martin Dooley is Associate Director at ARCADIS, and Daan Purbrick is ARCADIS’ onsite Senior Human Factors Engineer.
ARCADIS is an IEHF Registered Consultancy and an international consultancy, design, engineering and management services company. Their specialists in safety management, safety engineering, ergonomics and human factors work with clients to develop robust risk management strategies, achieving performance and safety requirements. Find out more at www.arcadis.com.
Paul Stephens, who works within the Designs Solutions Practice and is discipline head for ergonomics at ARCADIS, is the Principal Ergonomist for this work and has recently been appointed to the IEHF’s Professional Affairs Board.
Photo: ENGAGE. ITER will happen here: the scientific buildings and future headquarters of the ITER project.