Pipeline control room managers and supervisors have a lot on their plate. Trying to balance a safety culture, compliant procedures, Alarm Management, Fatigue Mitigation, and necessary processes can be challenging without the right approach.
You want to be absolutely sure about the safety and operational integrity of your control room, while also positioning yourself for industry advancement. To achieve both goals of effective control room management and career growth, consider taking these actions.
Proactively Address Critical Areas of Control Room Management
Consider how you can lead the cause of improving the safety, effectiveness, and compliance of your pipeline operation to protect your operation and grow in your role.
1. Focus on Your Safety Culture First
– Control Room Management Focus: A major point of emphasis for the pipeline control room is building a safety culture — and rightfully so. The industry is advancing. Technology is here and available. Yet, technology is not effective unless it is supported by a strong safety culture.
Supporting culture is about changing behaviors and attitudes towards pipeline safety. This includes controllers, other personnel who can direct the actions of controllers, and operational executives.
The goal, as described by PipelineSMS.org, is to gain leadership and management commitment to implement, support, and continually review Pipeline Safety Management Systems. The end result is that controllers can achieve situational awareness to perform critical tasks in the control room.
– Growth Opportunity: Control room managers have a unique opportunity to lead the charge for a pipeline safety culture. Gaining top-down support for safety — including implementing the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle to support situational awareness — is critical to ensure the effectiveness of the program.
From a much broader perspective, the industry is focused on a zero-incident goal. The first step is each pipeline operation striving toward pipeline safety. Once every operation is aligned with pipeline safety, the larger goal can be achieved. Control room managers are in the ideal position to help make this possible.
2. Document Alignment with the PHMSA CRM Rule
– Control Room Management Focus: Once you have established an effective pipeline safety culture, ensure that your internal procedures are updated and align with the PHMSA CRM Rule (49 CFR Parts 192 and 195).
The CRM Rule is a set of regulations or guidelines that incorporate by reference industry standards. This creates flexibility for each pipeline operation — no matter your size — to align procedures with the industry standards that apply specifically to your operation.
The key is being able to demonstrate alignment with the CRM Rule. How do you demonstrate alignment? Proper documentation.
– Growth Opportunity: For each pipeline operation to do their part striving for a zero-incident industry, control room managers need to advance their documentation process.
Pen and paper leaves too much room for error or misinterpretation. Or, legacy software that is difficult to update or does not integrate with your existing systems can become too burdensome for control room personnel.
We believe that industry-leading software that integrates with your existing technology and captures your procedures is the key to successful documentation. Then, you can clearly demonstrate alignment with the CRM Rule.
3. Advance Your Alarm Management Program
– Control Room Management Focus: Several years ago, the industry focused on minimizing alarm flood for controllers. That was Phase 1 in the process of balancing available technology capabilities and the needs of controllers to support situational awareness.
Now, the industry is advancing toward effective Alarm Management programs. Each operator needs to take the next step toward a holistic approach to alarm rationalization, logging, shift handover, analysis, and compliance support.
– Growth Opportunity: As a control room manager, you should be focusing on your Alarm Management program. You are either starting a program (advancing from Phase 1 to Phase 2), implementing a program, or continually reviewing your program to determine effectiveness.
Alarm Management needs to be a routine part of your role. You will be able to:
- Reduce alarm floods
- Evaluate alarm response sheets to guide controller response
- Improve response time to Plan-Do-Check-Act
- Cut the cost of the rationalization process
- Analyze the results.
Documenting your program, taking cost-cutting measures, and enhancing controller effectiveness to support safety is the ideal combination to advance in your role.
4. Advance Your Fatigue Mitigation Program
– Control Room Management Focus: In addition to focusing on your Alarm Management program, you also need to focus on fatigue mitigation. Many operators rely on an auditor or consultant to provide an annual or bi-annual review of controller workload records. That is a good, foundational start. Now, it’s time to advance to the next level of continuous workload analysis.
There is a changing dynamic to evaluate controller workload in real-time. This way, control room managers can evaluate whether controllers have adequate vigilance time in the control room, make necessary adjustments, gather feedback as it happens — not several months later — and then demonstrate compliance on-demand.
– Growth Opportunity: Control room managers should consider utilizing software such as our WLAnalysis component that supports workload analysis.
This software looks at the time required to perform necessary tasks, then determines the leftover vigilance time to stay on top of problems. If controllers do not have ample vigilance time, you can identify problem areas, then make adjustments. The software also allows you to create reports to deliver vertically to higher-ups or horizontally to your regulatory or audit support team.
5. Streamline Processes to Ensure Thinking Time
– Control Room Management Focus: We have heard from many control room managers that are frustrated by wasted time performing necessary tasks. While these tasks are necessary to support safety and compliance, they can be completed in much less time if you have streamlined processes.
– Growth Opportunity: If you are going to improve in your role and support the critical areas of control room management, you need time to think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Essentially, you need to have the headspace to think critically about each area of improvement.
We want to help you take back your time supervising the control room. Our Control Room Management (CRM) Suite includes software to support pipeline safety, CRM Rule alignment and documentation, Alarm Management, Fatigue Mitigation, and compliance.
Once implemented, our software will help you streamline processes and free up more time to manage the control room and be successful in your role to continue advancing in your career.
We would like to schedule an educational demo with you about our software. Please complete our Contact form, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us directly at 281-598-7100 to discuss your control room with our team. We look forward to supporting your control room management needs.