Safety precautions for working on pipelines
There are a variety of aspects to pipeline safety and compliance. Each of them is designed to ensure the safety and compliance of different groups, including:
- The general public
- Surface landowners
- Pipeline company employees
- Other stakeholders.
The American Petroleum Institute has documented a general overview and recommended practices: API recommended practice 1173, often shortened to API RP 1173.
This is not a legal document defining what can and cannot, or what must or must not be done, but rather a set of suggestions on how to do a good job of meeting both legal and other requirements.
API recommended practice 1173 overview
In brief, the API RP 1173 consists of the following areas of interest:
Leadership and management commitment
Making sure that everyone responsible for the system is engaged, takes it seriously, and understands what their role is.
Ensuring that employees, contractors, surface landowners, regulatory authorities, the general public, and others all understand what they can or should do, who they can communicate with, and how to do it effectively.
Identifying potential problems and how to reduce or eliminate them
Ensuring that the pipeline and auxiliary facilities (pumping stations, gauging stations, etc.) are managed in ways that reduce risks.
Incident investigation, evaluation, and lessons learned
Documenting and resolving incidents as well as near-misses
Making sure that the process and equipment required are fully functional as assessed through audits and evaluations. Gaps or deficiencies are addressed by trying to find ways to improve existing processes and procedures.
Management review and continuous improvement
Ensuring resources to implement and execute plans are available. To look for potential ways to improve and to make sure that management understands how the plan is implemented in operations as opposed to merely how it was intended to function.
Emergency preparedness and response
In the event of a live incident, a response is initiated quickly, efficiently, and without risk for further escalation or loss of control.
Competence, awareness, and training
Making sure that the key stakeholders who are carrying out the plan thoroughly understand how to execute it.
Documentation and record-keeping
Making it clear to anyone in the operation or 3rd parties exactly what is being done and by who.
Each of these 10 areas requires that specific plans and processes be put in place and utilized to achieve good results.
As comprehensive as it is, API RP 1173 is more of a list of areas to work on than a list of things to do. The information and data must still be filled in by multiple stakeholders. To streamline that process, many companies are turning to EHS solutions to digitize their workflows rather than relying on manual processes or spreadsheets.