A Collaborative Approach to PSMS in the Northeast

Natural gas utilities in the Northeast, working in coordination through the Northeast Gas Association (NGA), are implementing Pipeline Safety Management Systems, or PSMS.

The purpose of a Safety Management System is to help pipeline operators create a framework for developing a comprehensive, process-oriented approach to safety, emphasizing continual assessment and improvement.

In July of 2015, the American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a recommended practice for implementing safety management system principles - the ANSI/API Recommended Practice 1173 Pipeline Safety Management Systems. The RP provides pipeline operators with safety management system requirements that - when applied - provide a framework to reveal and manage risk, and promote a continuous learning environment that facilitates continuous improvement of pipeline safety and integrity.

The standard was developed under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process that is recognized worldwide for ensuring broad representation and public comment.

What is API RP 1173?

The genesis of the standard was an NTSB recommendation that the American Petroleum Institute (API) develop a standard on pipeline safety management systems (PSMS) following their investigation of an industry incident in Michigan in 2010. The standard was developed by a diverse working group of operators from gas distribution, gas and liquid transmission and storage, federal and state regulators, and representatives of the public.

For more information, visit: https://pipelinesms.org/

The NGA membership collaborative approach to implementation is viewed as one of the largest coordinated PSMS implementation programs underway in the U.S. The NGA Board of Directors created a PSMS Steering Committee to guide this collaboration and champion PSMS implementation.

Currently over a dozen utilities in the region are participating in the NGA collaborative, with the guidance of the Blacksmith Group, one of the nation's leading consultants and practitioners of applying and integrating safety management system principles into day-to-day utility operations. Blacksmith was also one of the developers of what is now considered as the American National Standard for pipeline safety management systems.

A central part of the work is helping members collaborate and participate in a true learning environment, through sharing pipeline safety management leading practices and opportunities from a broad cross section of operators, both large and small.

The Build-On Analyses and Road Maps developed through this process will be combined into a report for each member and a compendium of results will be made available to participating members in the spirit of facilitating true learning from each other.

The initiative uses a Plan-Do-Check-Act framework. Front-Line Supervisor PSMS engagement tools include exploring consistent approaches to Management of Change (MOC), Pre-Job Briefs (PJB), adoption of Post Construction Assessments (PCA's), and Pre-Startup Safety Reviews (PSSR's) relative to PSMS elements.

This enables a holistic, practical approach embedding safety management system principles into every decision and every action. The focus is on developing a culture and behaviors and a structured approach to revealing risk in a way that the entire organization can understand and implement.

NGA's PSMS Resource Center

As part of its effort to increase industry and public awareness of PSMS and its benefits, NGA is establishing an online Resource Center.

Developed in concert with our project consultant, The Blacksmith Group, the Resource Center will contain a host of informational materials on the essential elements of PSMS.

In addition, the Resource Center will be a place for member utilities to share information on best practices and lessons learned.

Look for more information on the Resource Center in the near future.