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Pipeline SMS

Why Should You Focus on Pipeline Safety Management Systems (SMS)?

In 2015, the API 1173 recommended practice was released setting the standard for pipeline safety management systems (SMS). After a period of review and feedback, API 1173 is now in the implementation and evaluation phase.

What does this mean for pipeline operators? Every operator and control room manager should be thinking about pipeline SMS. Fortunately, the RP was designed with small-to-medium sized operators in mind to help take the appropriate steps to achieve pipeline safety and build the right culture around safety.

Here are the steps you can take this year to ensure alignment with API 1173.

Step 1: Break Up API 1173 Implementation Into Chunks

On a recent episode of the Pipeliners Podcast, David Murk of API highlighted that API 1173 is scalable and flexible to match the size of each operator. The key is to take one bite at a time implementing pipeline SMS.

“You don’t need to do the whole RP at once. Pick a few of the elements and see how it applies to your program. Just take it in more of a stepwise fashion,” David Murk said.

The key is demonstrating a commitment to pipeline safety management systems, starting to talk more about pipeline SMS in your company, and creating a culture of pipeline safety to build a foundation for full implementation.

Step 2: Use Tools and Resources for Pipeline SMS

Many larger operators already had a form of pipeline SMS before API 1173 was released. Their goal was to marry their existing policies and procedures with the best practices recommended in the RP to form a complete safety system.

However, many smaller operators did not have a system in place beforehand. If you are in the process of starting from scratch or just trying to wrap your head around how to gain some small victories along the way, use the tools and resources available.

PipelineSMS.org is a valuable resource with a host of documents, presentations, and other information to help operators and control room managers understand how to apply the recommended best practices to their operation.

Step 3: Build a Culture of Pipeline Safety

We understand that many small operators are not in a position to take time or resources away from day-to-day operations. With only a handful of employees and miles of pipe to manage, the focus is on achieving safety and efficiency within your capabilities.

One step that you can take, though, is creating a culture centered on pipeline safety. It’s no longer “this is the way we’ve always done it and it works for us.” It’s about seeing the connection between safety improvements and efficiency to create a better pipeline operation.

“Ultimately, we think, by improving safety, you’re going to improve efficiency,” David Murk said on the Pipeliners Podcast. You’re going to have more balance with the operational aspects of your organization. Safety’s the number one priority, and it also makes your company a little more cost competitive.”

By having a safety culture in place that fits your unique operation, you will be able to:

  • Achieve continuous improvement
  • Take advantage of new opportunities to grow your capabilities
  • Increase the productivity of your team
  • Reduce costs by removing inefficiencies

Step 4: Ensure a Commitment to Pipeline SMS

Ultimately, your operation’s success in implementing API 1173 depends on the level of commitment from your leaders and management team. Yes, it will take time and there may be hurdles along the way, but operators need to set the tone of committing to pipeline SMS to continue building toward complete implementation and evaluation.

“You don’t need to do it all at once,” says David Murk. “Really lean on some of your peers that have implemented safety management systems, particularly RP 1173. I think you gain a lot from that peer-to-peer engagement and learning.”

A commitment to pipeline safety at the senior level of operations drives the engine of pipeline SMS. This top-down approach of talking about culture in meetings, gathering feedback, and holding teams accountable for their commitment to safety is critical for success.

Then, critical personnel such as controllers will be equipped to follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act process that is a key piece of API 1173.

Step 5: Use Software to Capture Pipeline SMS

Many smaller operators are in the process of transitioning from pen and paper logs or spreadsheets to a software solution to manage pipeline operations.

Within that transition, you may be faced with the challenge of capturing and documenting your commitment to safety without over-extending your operation. That’s where a software solution can make the process easier to match up your internal procedures with the best practices in API 1173, track alignment with the RP, and produce appropriate records.

To help operators ramp up for implementation and evaluation, EnerSys Corporation developed a new software tool, ComplyMgr, within our POEMS Compliance Management Software Suite.

ComplyMgr acts as a data repository for all relevant documents, links to industry standards such as API 1173, API 1168, and API 1165, and simplifies the process of tracking regulatory changes to your internal procedures.

We would like to schedule a demo of ComplyMgr with you and your team. We will also help you understand how to take the next step in your pipeline SMS implementation. To schedule a brief, no-obligation demo, please complete our contact form, email us at sales@enersyscorp.com, or call us directly at 281-598-7100.

Russel Treat

Russel Treat is an industry leader, software entrepreneur, podcaster, and trusted subject matter expert specializing in oil and gas pipeline operations, custody transfer measurement, leak detection, and automation. Russel’s extensive knowledge of pipeline and control room operations gained over 30 years of projects led to the creation of a complete software suite known as POEMS ™ (Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System) delivered through EnerSys Corporation.

As CEO of EnerSys, Russel is committed to delivering the highest value to pipeline operators by addressing their greatest needs and concerns, especially operational efficiency, safety and government regulation.