Lessons Learned from PHMSA Enforcement Actions

Lessons Learned from PHMSA Enforcement Actions

Control Room Solutions for Roles & Responsibilities, Fatigue Mitigation, Change Management & Training

At the start of 2022, we published a high-level overview of the 2021 PHMSA Enforcement Actions pertaining to the control room. The article was the first in a series of our deep-dive into PHMSA enforcement actions, their findings, and potential solutions that operators can use to achieve Natural Compliance. You can read our in-depth review of Section A and Sections C & E for more details on those findings. 

The PHMSA Enforcement Actions report represents a range of enforcement case types that PHMSA brings against pipeline owners and operators. The types of cases include Corrective Action Orders, Notice of Probable Violations, Notice of Amendments, Warning Letters, and Notices of Proposed Safety Orders.

In this final post pertaining to the 2021 findings, we review specific PHMSA enforcement actions related to the following sections:

  • B – Roles & Responsibilities
  • D – Fatigue Mitigation
  • F – Change Management 
  • H – Training

We thought it was appropriate to examine sections B, D, F, and H while also providing relevant solutions for the corresponding enforcement actions. Whether you have received a notice of amendment, warning letter, or other penalties, or you’re taking a proactive approach, this article can serve as a guide as you work toward Natural Compliance.

Section B: Roles & Responsibilities

Given that controllers are often the first line of defense in responding to abnormal and emergency operation conditions, it is important that the roles and responsibilities within the control room are clearly defined and clearly understood.

Of the 14 findings related to Section B (Roles & Responsibilities), the common thread was a lack of clarity around roles, responsibilities, and the necessary qualifications of operators who have the authority to supersede the specific technical actions of controllers. 

– One operator received a Notice of Amendment because the operator’s procedures were inadequate to assure safe operation of a pipeline facility. Specifically, operator’s written procedures did not adequately implement the requirement in §195.446(b)(4) that operators define the roles and responsibilities of a controller during normal, abnormal, and emergency operating conditions, including a “method of recording controller shift-changes and any hand-over of responsibility between controllers.”

– The report also found that one operation’s “control room management procedures were inadequate to assure safe operation of a pipeline facility. Specifically, its procedures fail to adequately define the roles, responsibilities, and qualifications of others who have the authority to direct or supersede the specific technical actions of controllers during normal, abnormal and emergency operating conditions”

Solution: Capture Operational and Compliance Activity with CRMgr

Adequately defining Roles and responsibilities is an important part of building an effective Control Room Management Program, and in some cases, responsibilities may vary depending on the operating conditions at a given time. As conditions change from normal to abnormal or emergency conditions, duties and tasks must adapt in response. 

A competent Control Room Management Plan (CRMP) should explicitly define all variations to procedure, including the control room personnel in charge of those tasks, for normal operating conditions, abnormal operating conditions (AOCs), and emergency situations. 

CRMgr has the tools to help your operation record those changes. The CRMgr module of the POEMS CRM Suite enables pipeline operators to capture valuable operational policies and procedures, as well as compliance-related activity. Records are then readily available and can be useful for future analysis or PHMSA CRM audit response.

Key Benefits of CRMgr

  • Dedicated Tools to View, Update, and Review your CRMP Policy
  • Unique Dashboards for Controllers and Control Room Managers
  • Tools and Permissions Built to Accommodate Roles & Responsibilities Based on Operating Conditions
  • Assigned Reading with Confirmation Reporting to Communicate Important Information, Documents, and Changes to Controllers
  • Record of Changing Rolls and Responsibilities via emailed SHO Reports

Section D: Fatigue Mitigation

There were 11 findings reported under Section D. The majority of the findings regarding Fatigue Mitigation included either a failure to recognize the effects of fatigue or a lack of fatigue mitigation strategies and how off-duty activities contribute to fatigue.

– Of the 11 findings, one example was a Proposed Compliance Order because the operator “failed to establish shift lengths and schedule rotations that provide controllers off-duty time sufficient to achieve eight hours of continuous sleep, in order to reduce the risk associated with controller fatigue that could inhibit a controller’s ability to carry out the roles and responsibilities the operator has defined.”

– Another example, resulting in a Notice of Amendment stated that “Control Room Management (CRM) Plan was inadequate because it did not provide information related to shift schedules and Hours of Service (HOS) for controllers who work under 8-hour shifts.”

– Another Notice of Amendment noted that “Document for Controller Shift Management does not address methods to mitigate travel fatigue associated with controllers commuting long distances for their first controller shift at the duty station.”

Solution: Achieve Fatigue Mitigation Requirements with FatigueMgr

The FatigueMgr module of the POEMS CRM Suite enables pipeline operators to meet the challenge of managing the Hours of Service (HOS) requirements of the PHMSA CRM Rule requirements. The software tool provides operators with the information they need to answer key questions:

  • Are we within our Hours of Service limitations?
  • If we are not within our HOS limits, is there a fatigue mitigation plan in place?
  • Can we find the records of HOS deviations?

FatigueMgr also supports the management of controller workload. Control room managers have the information they need to understand controller workload and see how workload varies over time, across consoles, and by each controller.

The FatigueMgr HOS Scheduler Tracks

  • Hours of service 
  • Controller shift times by console or controller
  • Travel time
  • Shift Handover (SHO) time
  • Controller’s quality of sleep
  • Time spent during off-shift hours for training, meetings, and development.

Key Benefits of FatigueMgr

  • Awareness for controllers of when they have increased fatigue risk and how to mitigate the risk
  • Easily view shift schedules and any applicable HOS constraints
  • Adjust staffing levels or workload across shifts
  • Plan to fill controller schedule gaps while being mindful of HOS
  • Maintain awareness of workload peaks

Section F: Change Management

While there were only 3 findings under Section F, Change Management, they present an opportunity for abnormal operating conditions or an emergency situation to occur if not properly addressed.

– One instance of a finding around Section F was a Warning Letter that cited a failure “to assure that change that could affect control room operations are coordinated with control room personnel by establishing communications between control room representatives, operator’s management, and associated field personnel when planning and implementing physical changes to pipeline equipment or configuration in violation of § 192.631(f)(1).”

-Another finding noted that “No records were provided to demonstrate the controllers were provided with notification and training to assure their ability to safely incorporate Phase 1 & Phase 2 projects.”

Solution: Assigned Reading in CRMgr

One of the key features supporting change management in CRMgr is the assigned reading function. This functionality supports closed-loop communication with control room personnel regarding new procedures, completed MOCs, or training material.

Users can be sure that all change documentation is received and reviewed in a timely manner, allowing your organization to continue operating smoothly.

Key Benefits of Assigned Reading in CRMgr

  • Closed-loop communication for new procedures
  • Confirm change documents are received by the appropriate personnel
  • Change documentation can distributed quickly and efficiently

Section H: Training

Gaps in training leave operators in a vulnerable position when situations arise during their shifts. Without the proper knowledge and skillset to successfully execute their role, operators are more susceptible to the problems that arise during abnormal operating conditions and could fail to respond with the appropriate action during an emergency. 

In the report from PHMSA, there were several instances where controllers weren’t given an opportunity to review procedures in advance of using setups that are infrequently but periodically used. Notices of Amendment were frequently issued for organizations failing to establish a training program to respond to abnormal operating conditions (AOCs) or emergencies. 

– One operator was subject to eight Notices of Amendment regarding Section H. There was a specific instance where an operator “failed to establish a controller training program that included training that provides controllers a working knowledge of the pipeline system, especially during the development of AOCs.”

– Another warning letter from PHMSA indicated that one organization’s “training program failed to provide opportunities for controllers to review relevant procedures in advance of the application of pipeline operating setups that are periodically, but infrequently used.”

Solution: Confirm Communications with CRMgr

CRMgr improves communication across shifts and breaks down barriers between the field and the control room, enabling operators to communicate key information and training material to all control room personnel. 

Once training documents are distributed, controllers must read and acknowledge that they have reviewed all assigned materials. All assigned documents are finalized with a time-stamped confirmation to the supervisor, ensuring information has been read.

Articles, training documents, notice of incidents, and even URLs can be assigned for review through the tool.

Key Benefits of Confirming Communications through CRMgr

  • Distribute training material to the proper control room personnel
  • Confirm receipt and acknowledgement with timestamped approvals
  • Assign URLs or updated training materials easily

Control Room Managers should work to involve their team to learn more about the CRM Rule, and how your company seeks to follow the rule. EnerSys can assist you through consultations or team training. We’ll work to help you thoroughly review your CRMP, identify opportunities, and take the necessary steps to address gaps in your training.

Additional Solutions:

EnerSys has worked to build a comprehensive set of tools designed to help you manage compliance and safety in your Control Room. Through our partnerships with our sister companies, we can offer even more help on your path to Natural Compliance.

P.I. Confluence

P.I. Confluence offers programs to help you manage operator qualification (OQ) and processes in your operation as well as help you identify compliance gaps in your policies and procedures.

ComplyMgr enables operators to achieve audit readiness through comprehensive management of the audit process. It streamlines pipeline compliance management and includes a centralized document repository for managing your organization’s governing documentation – policies and related procedures and forms.

POEMS ProgramMgr enables operators to achieve two key objectives in their pipeline programs. Operators can implement their Plan-Do-Check-Act processes as part of API Pipeline Safety Management Systems (PSMS) and optimize stakeholder communication to determine if they are seeing the desired safety and operational impacts.

GCI & Muddy Boots

Gas Certification Institute offers a powerful field operations software called Muddy Boots to help close the communication gaps between the field and control room operations.

The Muddy Boots platform is ideal for addressing change management within your operation, and the POEMS CRM Suite allows for linking and communication between the programs.

CRMgr can be used to create an operating or callout notice, and then that notice can be linked  to Muddy Boots to create a work order.

Align with the PHMSA CRM Rule

PHMSA Enforcement Actions can include monetary penalties for the organizations found at fault. Certain offenses discussed in our previous articles included severe financial penalties for the organizations involved. While no fines were imposed for the sections covered in this article, the findings should serve as a reminder to operators about the importance of aligning policy, procedures, and execution.

These sections all focus on the Control Room team and the policies and procedures that are put in place to allow the operation to run smoothly and safely. Failure to address these issues over time could lead to severe penalties or result in an operator losing their permission to operate completely. Even worse: it exponentially increases the potential for an emergency situation. 

– We are ready to help implement these solutions in your operation. Let’s get started with a consultation about your current compliance state and control room challenges.

Call us at 281-598-7100 to speak with EnerSys General Manager Ross Adams or VP of Business Development Dale Schafer. You can also contact us via email at sales@enersyscorp.com or complete our website contact form.

We’ll work with you to incorporate these solutions within your organization to help you achieve Natural Compliance.