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Pipeline SMS: Key Details in “Plan Do Check Act” Cycle

Throughout this year’s industry events, we have heard valuable discussions about the Pipeline Safety Management Systems (SMS). Specifically, the topic of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle in the implementation of all operating processes, and how that impacts situational awareness in the control room.

A sample of the questions asked during these discussions include:

  • What does the cycle look like in each pipeline operation?
  • How can operators accelerate their adoption to support zero incidents?
  • What are the typical restraints that prevent universal adoption?
  • What have been the results for operators that have adopted the cycle?

Pipeline operators have candidly shared their experience adopting the cycle in accordance with the API 1173 recommended practice. The key to continue advancing on the journey to implementation and measuring the results is optimizing each step in the cycle.

What Does API 1173 Say About Pipeline SMS?

Before diving into the key aspects of each step in the cycle, it’s important to note the purpose of API 1173 for Pipeline SMS.

As defined by PipelineSMS.org, API 1173 “is a voluntary recommended practice that was specifically prepared for the pipeline industry.” API 1173 is designed to complement the safety management systems already in place “to satisfy regulations and internal expectations for safety management.”

The burden for pipeline operators is to verify that their existing safety management systems “explicitly conform with some or all of the requirements of RP 1173 — and to modify them as needed.”

There is a key phrase of “some or all requirements.” Each pipeline operator needs to perform analysis of their own operation to identify whether their internal controls are aligned with the recommendations in API 1173.

Fortunately, PipelineSMS.org offers helpful planning tools to support operators with the development of their initial implementation plan.

Included is a gap analysis tool to compare existing practices against the recommendations in API 1173. Performing this analysis will help identify gaps and evaluate options to close the gaps based on the specific set-up and capabilities of your operation.

Fortunately, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. A smaller operator does not need to follow the same journey as a larger operator with multiple locations all over the globe. It’s up to each operator to make their own evaluation and take the appropriate steps on their journey.

Evaluate Your Ability to Support Plan Do Check Act

The core principle of Pipeline SMS is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. This principle outlines the actions that operators should take to implement, review, and continuously improve their pipeline safety programs.

Ultimately, this approach drills all the way down to controllers achieving situational awareness in the control room to support the industry goal of zero incidents. Consider the key elements of each step in the cycle that could apply to your operation.

Plan Cycle: Risk Management

The handiest tool in your toolbox is gap analysis. Using the results of the analysis, you can identify the steps to manage and minimize risk in your operation:

  • What areas represent the greatest risk?
  • Who do we need to involve in addressing these risks?
  • What is our step-by-step plan for addressing the risk?
  • What is our timeline for progressively reducing the risk?
  • What benchmarks do we need to set to measure progress?
  • What metrics are we going to use in the measurement?

Ask these questions for each level of risk identified in the gap analysis. Then, continue to strategize the steps, people, and timeframe to address each group of risks over time.

Do Cycle: Taking Action Through Implementation

As you march through the timeline of addressing risks, you should also take action to conform to the API 1173 recommendations. Why is this important?

  • Supports emergency preparedness and response
  • Enhances operational control
  • Ensures competence and awareness
  • Identifies areas where training is required
  • Allows for documentation and recordkeeping
  • Continues to engage stakeholders in the implementation process

To help with this step, PipelineSMS.org introduced a Pipeline SMS Implementation tool. This tool is designed to help operators evaluate, track, and summarize progress made on your unique journey.

Check Cycle: Lessons Learned

As you progress through the cycle from planning and doing, you will want to verify progress made. One of the key aspects of this “check” cycle is sharing lessons learned.

The goal is to gather feedback from users, managers, and other stakeholders, build an effective feedback loop to discuss progress, and continue to reinforce the overall purpose of Pipeline SMS to support safety.

During this phase of the cycle, consider taking these actions:

  • Hold regularly scheduled meetings to evaluate progress
  • Quickly review and discuss incidents
  • Hold personnel accountable for their role in supporting Pipeline SMS
  • Use metrics from your reports and records to check feedback against results

Act Cycle: Continuous Improvement

The Plan Do Check Act cycle includes a final important step of continually evaluating progress to avoid stagnation.

This is where management plays a vital role supporting continuous improvement. There must be a top-down approach to achieve the level of universal buy-in and follow-through that is required to continue advancing toward the zero-incident goal.

The key drivers for continuous improvement include:

  • Comparing the progress of aligning internal controls with API 1173 recommendations
  • Noting when benchmarks have been reached along the journey
  • Evaluating the steps required to reach the next benchmarks
  • Continuing to gather feedback from users and stakeholders
  • Identifying improvements in controllers’ ability to achieve situational awareness

Consider a Software Tool to Support Alignment with API 1173

EnerSys Corporation works with pipeline operators to support the adoption of industry recommendations such as API 1173.

We specifically offer a software solution, the POEMS Compliance Management Suite, to provide enhanced support. This software tool integrates with our other POEMS software modules or your existing software to act as a single repository of information.

The software suite hosts policies and procedures, electronic documentation, and controller logs that allow you to capture information on your controllers’ ability to achieve situational awareness and your operation’s overall progress to align internal controls with API 1173 for Pipeline SMS.

To find out more about our software, consider scheduling an educational demo with our team. We appreciate the opportunity to support your operation’s adoption of the Plan Do Check Act cycle for pipeline safety.