Pipeline controller using pipeline control room tools to support safe and compliant operations

2020 in Review: Support the Control Room During Challenging Times

This year was unprecedented. The pandemic forced pipeline operators and control room managers to make critical decisions to support business continuity and continue to maintain compliance with PHMSA requirements.

One of our colleagues, Charles Alday of the Pipeline Performance Group, recently co-authored a report in Pipeline & Gas Journal about how control rooms navigated the disruption in 2020.

These were the survey results from 300 controllers across 13 control rooms in the U.S. and Canada about efforts taken to safeguard the control room:

  • Practiced social distancing
  • Used multiple control room locations
  • Reduced on-site personnel (Team A and Team B shifts)
  • Conducted remote shift turnovers
  • Implemented health and wellness measures
  • Followed cleaning protocols

The health and safety measures allowed controllers and other control room personnel to continue performing daily tasks in remote work settings or modified in-person settings with minimal disruption. But, what about the important question of continuing to meet the PHMSA requirements outlined in the CRM Rule?

How Control Rooms Handled PHMSA Safety Regulations

The report from Charles Alday’s team noted “largely positive results” from the efforts of control rooms to continue meeting PHMSA safety regulations during the pandemic.

According to the survey findings, there were distinct sections of the CRM Rule that provided controllers with more challenges than other areas.

  • Highest scores: Shift Handover, Change Management, Roles and Responsibilities, communication, and support.
  • Lowest scores: Fatigue mitigation and stress management.

The report noted that many controllers reported internal stress from changes to their typical control room work habits and external stress from personal and family issues during the pandemic that contributed to excessive fatigue.

Fatigue management is essential to support pipeline safety and to help operators achieve compliance naturally. So, what’s the solution? The report offered an important conclusion:

“Fatigue mitigation and stress management should include changes not only to the control room and related processes, but also training to equip controllers with techniques for the self-regulation of their own fatigue and stress.”

One thing we learned in 2020 is the importance of communication and regular dialogue between supervisors and controllers. When productive habits are interrupted and customary routines are altered, then gaps can result.

We recommend that control room supervisors take proactive steps to identify any gaps and then work toward offering solutions so that personnel can support safe and compliant operations. This includes sharing lessons learned from the pandemic to improve operations in 2021, as well as introducing new tools to support the control room and achieve compliance.

Contact Us to Discuss Control Room Tools

In 2020, our team learned how valuable tools such as Zoom and Webex are to maintain exceptional relationships with pipeline operators. It was a helpful reminder of the importance of having the right tools at the right time. The same could be said of the control room needing access to the right tools to support ongoing activity.

Throughout the year, we helped pipeline and midstream customers operate safely in unique control room set-ups as well as successfully complete their latest PHMSA audit. We are proud of our team’s effort to support operators and control rooms during the disruption.

Looking ahead to 2021, we believe there is a unique opportunity to add more tools to your arsenal to support the control room and prepare for the next PHMSA audit. Through our compelling combination of software tools, such as the POEMS CRM Suite, and consulting support, we can help you achieve natural compliance to help the control room operate smoothly and to simplify the audit process.

EnerSys Corporation is also introducing a new software tool, POEMS ComplyMgr, that would allow pipeline compliance and regulatory teams to verify that each section of their Control Room Management Plan (CRMP) and recordkeeping is in alignment with PHMSA regulations, rules, FAQ’s, and Inspection Questions.

With ComplyMgr you can compare “what you say you will do” to see if it fully complies with PHMSA requirements. If you need to modify your documents to meet PHMSA’s requirements, ComplyMgr’s Corrective Action Plan Report simplifies the MOC process. Finally, you can use ComplyMgr to perform a mock audit to confirm that “you are doing what you said you would do.

Reach out to our team today to discuss your current control room tools. Let’s find an opportunity to add the best tools to support your team. We want to ensure that your personnel have access to the appropriate tools at the appropriate time in 2021 and beyond.

Call us today at 281-598-7100 to discuss your control room challenges — we are here to learn and to help. We can also be reached via email at sales@enersyscorp.com or through our website contact form.