Management systems have been around for decades, and they are a key way organizations plan, develop, and implement practices to continuously improve their operations. They lay the foundation for organizations to conduct business in a deliberate and streamlined manner, and they provide efficiency and help improve an organization’s overall safety and health culture. Effective management systems are understood and implemented throughout the organization and support the bottom line.  

In our webinar moderated by Jon Pesicka, Senior Consultant, Kelly Sampliner, MBA, CSP, Consultant, and Stephanie Farley, Manager of Safety Compliance and Training for South Jersey Industries, our experts discussed management systems specific to pipeline operators. More specifically, they discussed the American Petroleum Institute (API) recommended practice 1173 framework (API RP1173). In their discussion, they explain what the API 1173 framework can do for you, how to start your own journey, and how South Jersey Industries implemented their own API 1173 journey.   

If you missed it, check out the full webinar on-demand below.  

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What is a Pipeline Safety Management System?  

A Pipeline Safety Management System (PSMS) is a management system that is specific to pipeline operators. PSMS was developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to address several significant pipeline incidents. The goal of developing this framework was to assist operators in defining methods for organizations to reduce the number of incidents by managing operational and occupational health and safety risks.  

What is API RP 1173?  

The API Recommended Practice (API RP) 1173 framework was developed in collaboration with the US Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, along with state regulators and expert members of the public to help pipeline operators gain the benefits of having a safety management system.   

The API 1173 framework focuses on the development of best management practices to improve pipeline safety and integrity. It also includes a systematic approach to identify and manage risk, while still driving continuous improvement and defining the elements that are needed to identify and address safety concerns for the lifecycle of the pipeline. The framework is flexible enough to help those that are new to management systems, as well as though with sophisticated existing systems. It’s scalable and allows operators both large and small to benefit.  

The American Gas Association (AGA) is one of the organizations that strongly recommends that all pipeline organizations implement the American Petroleum Institute’s RP 1173 as a best practice.  

What are the Core Elements of API RP 1173?  

  1. Leadership and management commitment  
  2. Engagement of stakeholders  
  3. Management of risk  
  4. Operational Controls  
  5. Incident Investigation, evaluation, and review of lessons learned  
  6. Safety assurance  
  7. Management review and continuous improvement  
  8. Emergency preparedness and response  
  9. Competence, awareness, and training  
  10. Documentation and recordkeeping  

These steps are meant to provide a framework to build upon an operator’s existing practices by taking into account industry best practices, lessons learned both within the operator’s organization and within the pipeline industry, and existing standards.  

Worker Participation in PSMS is Key  

All pipeline employees are responsible for being involved in the implementation of the PSMS. Workers bring a unique perspective to the table that others might not be privy to, and that allows for a more holistic approach in implementing a management system. They’re closer to the work, which allows them to introduce ways of improvement. Without a truly open line of communication between operation-level employees and management, bias can occur, and improvement can be delayed as a result.  

Some specific responsibilities might include assisting in the development of processes and procedures, implementation of the PSMS, communicating risks to leadership, maintaining awareness and taking action when necessary, and identifying improvement opportunities and shared learning. Shared learning allows for organizations to identify areas of improvement and brainstorm ways to ensure the situation can be avoided in the future, and it also brings the organization together.  

The Importance of Framework  

Your organization might be implementing one or two components of a PSMS, or even all 10, but it might be lacking a framework that ties all the parts and pieces together.  

Having a framework in place, such as API 1173, allows for each element of the PSMS to talk to one another and to make sure the business operations are interconnected. It helps define roles and responsibilities while reducing operational risk.   

It’s important to ensure there is a dedicated team that is committed to defining what makes a PSMS successful, and that those teams have clear responsibilities to support the management system. Driving PSMS at multiple levels of the organization is ideal, as mentioned above regarding the worker participation components. Having sufficient worker representation is key when thinking about a team to drive this process.  

Working directly with leadership to understand your organization’s overall goal will help define a policy statement that drives the organization towards its goal and enhances the organization’s safety culture.  

Where Should Your Organization Begin?  

  1. Take a step back and conduct a gap assessment and develop a road map.  
  2. Review the road map with a dedicated team and define actions to close gaps.  
  3. Identify and understand who the internal and external stakeholders are.  
  4. Define core values of stakeholders.  
  5. Clearly define business goals, as this provides actionable steps to ensure the management system is defined, implementable, and monitored to ensure the outputs align with the organization’s overall strategy.  

South Jersey Industries’ Implementation of a PSMS – What It Looks Like in Real Life  

For a great example of what implementing a PSMS can look like in real life, Stephanie Farley of South Jersey Industries (SJI) discussed her organization’s process – which started in 2017. At the time, injuries and illnesses were on the rise, so SJI desired to improve their operations and conform to API RP 1173 to instill safety into their daily operations.  

In 2017, they completed their initial gap assessment for South Jersey Gas, their natural gas utility, which provided a baseline to see where they stood. Between 2017-2020, the organization underwent leadership changes and they also acquired Elizabeth Town Gas.  

This spurred them to complete a follow-up assessment to look at both South Jersey Gas and Elizabeth Town Gas. Results of the gap assessment showed progress at South Jersey Gas since 2017, but it also provided best practices from each of the utilities. They used this to benchmark themselves against utility peers, which led to SJI conforming to the API RP 1173 standard since other peers in the industry used that as their best practice management system.  

Next, they began their API RP 1173 journey in 2020 by evaluating their current safety culture. They did this by engaging all levels of their organization, from leadership to union leaders to frontline employees and more. A diverse interview schedule gave a complete look at the safety culture of the organization from the top down.  

This revitalized the organization and gave leaders the information they needed to move them forward. The organization updated their core values and identified their priorities. SJI also developed roadmaps and defined next steps at the department and organizational level.   

They started implementing initiatives such as a Safety Manual review, update, and harmonization project. They also developed an improved quality assurance plan, and using the results of the gap assessment, SJI began to explore learning management platforms and used elements of API RP 1173 to establish training pillars to guide them to the best solution for SJI.  

SJI also educated their organization on why they started this journey, branded their safety management system to make it feel more like SJI, implemented an improved reporting and investigation tool to capture the full life cycles of incidents and near misses, and developed a QR code to make reporting of those incidents and near misses easier in the field.   

Finally, since internal stakeholder engagement is so important, SJI used safety culture surveys to understand how employees perceive safety at the organization and to get a pulse on their current safety culture. Today, SJI is in the stages of a second safety culture survey, and they expect to see areas that they have improved upon and what direction we need to be in to keep moving forward. According to Farley, “SJI has made substantial progress in just a few years, and we’re excited for what lies ahead.”  

Key Takeaways  

Management Systems are formal top-down organization wide sustainable solutions to managing risks and ensuring the effectiveness of risk controls and systematic implementation of procedures, practices, and policies. A PSMS such as API RP 1173 provides a performance-based framework to effectively manage risks specific to pipelines. Implementing your own PSMS means you’re committing to continuous improvement in your organization, and SJI is a great example of how to start. Remember, this is not a small undertaking; it is a continuous journey.  

Don’t know where to start with your own PSMS journey? Read a real-life case study of the implementation process of a PSMS. Then, reach out and get help with Safety Management System Support, including API RP 1173 from our team today. While this is a continuous journey, you don’t have to experience it alone! 

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