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3 Keys to Progressive Implementation in the Control Room

Control room managers in small to medium-sized pipeline operations have enough on their plate trying to support safe and compliant operations. Then, you attend a conference or hear a message about the progress made by other control rooms as they evolve their Control Room Management Rule (CRM Rule) programs.

Excitement about the possibility of implementing wholesale change is quickly met with the reality that your control room is not ready for a sweeping overhaul of your approach to control room operations and compliance.

Excitement can quickly turn into frustration and you’re back to wondering where to start. That’s where the concept of progressive implementation in the pipeline control room can be your ally. Think about taking a step-by-step approach to implementing change to streamline operations and compliance.

Every Pipeline Control Room Has Its Own Journey

If you attended this year’s SGA Natural Gas Connect conference or heard about the conversations that took place during the conference, you likely encountered various tactics used by managers to achieve buy-in from controllers and other control room personnel.

There is a risk of comparing your control room to others’ control rooms. That’s why it’s important to remember that every control room is on its own unique journey to operations excellence. Don’t feel paralyzed by comparisons to others’ journeys, especially after hearing the progress they have made.

If your control room has been slow to adopt best practices, or if you are struggling to adjust the culture in the control room, start with an evaluation of the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed.

Then, progressively implement change surrounding that issue. After having success with that issue, move to the next most pressing issue.

Issues That Need to Be Addressed in the Control Room

The question is: what are the most pressing issue to address? From our conversations with control room managers, we have identified these three critical areas:

  • Structured Shift Handover
  • Fatigue Management
  • Alarm Management

Here’s how to support progressive implementation of change for each of these three areas.

1. How to Support Structured Shift Handover

Streamlining the shift handover process may or may not be your most pressing issue. Whether it’s the first issue you address or an issue you address later on your journey, consider taking these action steps to drive toward compliance:

  • Identify the biggest issues around shift handover.
  • Identify issues surrounding communication from one controller to the next.
  • Identify where systems, policies, and procedures need to be updated.
  • Identify the CRM compliance record keeping required.

Remember, it’s not always about the quality of systems or policies and procedures. It’s also about making sure the people who use the systems and follow the policies and procedures understand the importance of shift handover.

That’s why it’s critical to have conversations with the people performing the work…

  • Gather feedback about whether policies and procedures are not clear.
  • Ask questions about communication gaps between an outgoing controller and an incoming controller about an operating condition.
  • Hold a refresher or training session on API 1168 Section 5.5, which identifies the Information to Exchange between controllers.

Once you gather information about the constraints in shift handover, formulate a plan to progressively implement change. Identify timelines, accountability benchmarks, and communication steps to track the change.

Ultimately, the goal should be to streamline and improve operations while achieving “natural compliance,” meaning controllers follow best practice procedures and compliance recordkeeping happens in the background.

Once you achieve small victories, continue to build toward the larger overall victory achieving full compliance with the shift handover guidelines in the CRM Rule.

2. How to Support Fatigue Management

Fatigue in the control room has been clearly linked to safety issues in pipeline operations. A tired or overworked controller is prone to mistakes or missed steps in a pipeline control room, placing the operation at risk.

Implementing change surrounding fatigue management requires a few critical steps to drive toward compliance:

  • Identify whether controllers are accurately tracking hours of service.
  • Identify whether the workload is evenly distributed amongst controllers.
  • Identify whether controllers are maintaining quality sleep and achieving a work/life balance.

Control room managers need to ask questions, gather feedback, and provide off-shift training, meetings, and development for controllers. This will help ensure that controllers remain effective and engaged in their role.

If your control room is unable to add more consoles or controllers to support the workload, then continue to hold conversations with your control room personnel to identify ways to improve adherence with fatigue mitigation requirements.

Ask questions and take a vested interest in the work and lives of controllers to help progressively change the culture. This change will ultimately help your control room achieve compliance with fatigue management guidelines in the CRM Rule.

3. How to Support Alarm Management

Alarm management is another critical area to address with controllers and support personnel. This is especially important because many operators are on a parallel journey advancing from alarm rationalization to alarm management programs.

Inside the control room, it’s important to take these action steps to support change:

  • Identify whether controllers fully understand the alarm rationalization process.
  • Identify whether controllers fully understand what they’re seeing on their HMI displays.
  • Identify the effectiveness of controller response using alarm response sheets.
  • Identify whether alarm frequency and alarm flood is impairing controller response.

Have the conversations, review documentation, and analyze reports to identify gaps in the control room. Make sure you gather together as much information as possible before formulating a plan to support compliance.

Once you formulate a plan, follow through by holding regular meetings and training to discuss key areas of alarm management. Then, hold controllers and support personnel accountable for following policies and procedures.

It’s about moving the needle to drive toward compliance with the alarm management guidelines in the CRM Rule.

Consider Support for Control Room Compliance

We understand that achieving compliance with these three critical areas in the control room is a daunting task. There may be other areas in your control room that are near the top of the list of most pressing issues to address.

At EnerSys, we’re here to help control room managers map out progressive implementation on your unique journey.

We also have software tools in our POEMS Control Room Management Suite (CRM Suite) to help control room managers better manage these critical areas in the control room.

  • CRMgr module: support shift handover with digital recordkeeping, e-logging, and a simple audit process.
  • FatigueMgr module: support fatigue management with our Workload Analysis and HOS Scheduler components.
  • ALMgr module: support alarm management with digital alarm response sheets, analytical reports, and more.

Contact us today to inquire about utilizing our compliance and consulting capabilities, our software tools, or both to support you on the journey. Remember, it’s about progressive implementation to achieve compliance with the CRM Rule.

To schedule a consultation, contact us directly on our website, via email at, or by phone at 281-598-7100.