PIC April Blog

Support Pipeline Risk Management and Your Culture Through a Quality Management Approach

Organizational failure is the underlying cause of many high-consequence pipeline incidents. It is one of the leading risks in pipeline operations, yet it is often overlooked because it is not considered an “on the pipe” risk.

Operators need to incorporate organizational failure into how they think about pipeline risk management. Finding root cause problems and then taking action to address the identified problems will help foster a healthy safety culture.

This type of culture will not happen overnight. It requires the support of leadership, buy-in from employees to strive for organizational excellence, and stakeholder engagement around your operation’s safety improvement objectives to support continuous improvement. The vehicle for achieving this goal is Quality Management across the entirety of pipeline operations.

Improve the Safety Culture to Support Risk Management

Pipeline operators can improve their culture by following a Quality Management approach to pipeline safety. In the pipeline industry, this is a Pipeline Safety Management System (Pipeline SMS / API 1173) supported by the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.

As we recently documented, operators are typically strong in Planning and Doing activities that the industry is familiar with. However, operators need to advance their Checking and Acting capabilities. Why? A Quality Management approach is the systematic application of the full PDCA cycle. This drives operational excellence by supporting three key objectives:

  • Mitigates organizational failure, which mitigates the probability of failure.
  • Reduces the probability of failure, which reduces safety risk.
  • Ultimately improves safety through a reduction of risk.

To support this approach to pipeline risk management, operators need to manage each aspect of the pipeline life cycle with the full PDCA cycle.

Manage Processes to Support Pipeline Risk Management

Having processes is one thing. Having a process management system and managing documented workflow is another thing. Not having a process management platform is like having a plan and not knowing if it was implemented.

Documenting who, what, when, where, and why are critical to the knowledge base that an operator needs to develop in order to improve safety.

Keep in mind that the PDCA cycle is a four-step model that should be implemented across each of the 10 core elements of Pipeline SMS. Although this methodology can be applied to the PSMS as a whole (see diagram below), the benefit is exponentially better when applied to each of the individual elements and processes within the system.

For example, one of the core elements of Pipeline SMS is Leadership and Management Commitment. This element supports organizational excellence and enhances risk management through the full application of PDCA. Through a full commitment to the execution of the PDCA cycle by leadership, operators can identify organizational weaknesses that exist in each area of their operation, then take the appropriate action to close these gaps.

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Plan Do Check Act cycle via PipelineSMS.org.

Perform Gap Analysis to Determine Areas for Improvement

The objective of the PSMS is to apply the PDCA methodology to mitigate the root causes of organizational failure – both vertically within business units and horizontally between business units – to break down silos that traditionally exist within pipeline operations.

When this review is performed, operators can identify areas where they need to advance their operational excellence, through the application of the entire PDCA cycle and build the desired healthy safety culture.

Understanding the level at which PDCA is being applied can help your operation answer the following key questions:

  • Are we meeting the requirements in API 1173?
  • Do we have a plan, process, or procedure for each aspect of our business?
  • Are we executing these plans, processes, and procedures?

Analysis of your operation allows you to check your plans, processes, and procedures for the inclusion of PSMS requirements and the level at which they are being executed. This analysis allows for the identification of actual areas requiring corrective actions as opposed to a simple  “check the box” exercise to support improvement in areas that could lead to organizational failure.

This way, your operation can reconcile how well you are addressing the root causes of organizational failure both in your plans, processes, and procedures as well as how well you are executing them. Subsequent corrective actions that address the root causes of organizational failure support an improved safety culture.

Therefore, it is critical that each plan, process, and procedure provides details on how to address the root causes of organizational failure. This should be supported by a mechanism to manage, schedule, track, document, and report activities that coincide with PSMS requirements.

Utilize Our Tools to Support Your Safety Culture and Mitigate Risk

P.I. Confluence offers tools that enable your operation to implement PDCA against the plans, processes, and procedures across each area of pipeline operations in alignment with Pipeline SMS (API 1173), helping reduce the risk of organizational failure.

Specifically, our ICAM tool (Integrated Compliance Activity Management) is a configurable software tool that is designed to manage, schedule, track, document, and report the execution of your programs.

When put into practice, ICAM creates a consistent, standardized approach to organizational requirements for process and workflow management. Using our tool, you will be able to document that the right person did the right job, in the right way, at the right time, in the right place – and that it was documented to support future analysis.

Then, your operation can plan, do, check, and act on the findings to support organizational excellence. This integrated approach will support the culture through the proper execution of the responsibilities detailed in your plans, processes, and procedures.

We encourage you to find out more about how we can support your operation’s culture through the systematic application of Quality Management principles. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or demo of our software tools to show you the best approach to pipeline risk management.

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