I had the opportunity to present a new whitepaper, “Optimizing Emergency Response Through Alarm Management,” during the 2019 API Control Room Forum.
The Control Room Forum followed the 2019 API Pipeline Conference, which took place April 9-11, 2019, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Throughout the week of the conference, the focus was on pipeline safety. Specifically, the journey for each pipeline operator to strategize, develop, and implement Pipeline Safety Management Systems (SMS) to build an effective safety culture.
The safety focus reached its crescendo at the Control Room Forum, where the whitepaper presentation explained how operators can optimize their alarm management program to better support both alarm and emergency response.
Why Safety is a Focal Point for the Pipeline Industry
Attending the API Pipeline Conference and presenting the whitepaper crystalized why pipeline safety is critical for the industry at this moment in time.
While the pipeline industry has made significant strides in pipeline safety over the past 20 years, the reality is that the industry is not where it could be, especially in comparison to other industries such as airlines that focus heavily on safety.
The key point coming out of API 2019 is that the pipeline industry lacks universal buy-in for safety culture. The recent efforts from API to develop a framework through API 1173 was a tremendous step in the right direction.
However, the industry was challenged during the API conference to re-double its efforts to follow through on the recommended best practices to create a culture of safety.
Each entity has its own journey to achieve this objective, but the overall industry should be maturing toward adopting these guidelines and taking steps toward changing attitudes and behaviors to ensure buy-in.
Socialization is Critical for Adopting Pipeline SMS
One of the most important ways to think about implementing and following through on Pipeline SMS is socializing the safety culture.
It should not be thought of as a series of lecture-style seminars or computer-based training sessions that are isolated from the work to be done. Instead, the focus should be on getting people to change how they think, act, and behave around issues related to safety by blending this education and training into the actual work.
Additionally, the safety culture has to come from leadership. Operators might create an internal pipeline safety management group to help facilitate the change, but the implementation has to come from the operating leadership all the way down to the line supervisors and those in the field doing the actual work.
This approach requires socialization of the program; it requires conversations, dialogue, feedback, and accountability to ensure alignment with the SMS program.
If the goal is to move the needle of the program to drive toward buy-in, then proactive steps must be taken to engage leaders, managers, and workers in discussions that produce results. That was the message and the challenge to the industry at API 2019.
What Does a Safety Culture Look Like for Emergency Response?
After listening to healthy discussions around pipeline safety during the API Pipeline Conference, I went into the Control Room Forum whitepaper presentation with a renewed understanding of the chief safety concerns of pipeline operators.
I was able to encourage operators to focus on the five priorities when managing a pipeline incident and supporting emergency response, as outlined by API:
1. Safety First. Remember that your safety and the safety of the community is the top priority.
2. Isolate the Area and Size Up the Incident.
3. Identify the Product.
4. Contact Additional Parties.
5. Prepare and Work the Plan.
The key is having a plan to quickly and efficiently address an emergency situation to minimize consequence. However, the plan is only as effective as the safety culture that supports it.
Wherever your operation is on the journey to implement Pipeline SMS, keep pressing on. Do not be discouraged if attitudes and behaviors do not change right away. Continue to have healthy discussions and ask questions. And, remember, universal buy-in starts at the top.
To find out more about how EnerSys Corporation helps pipeline operators achieve safety goals, schedule a consultation with our team. We would appreciate the opportunity to help you on the journey.
Additionally, if you attended API 2019 and would like to follow up on the conference or whitepaper presentation, please let us know your interest in a follow-up call or meeting.