How to Implement a Pipeline Safety Management System

July 06, 2017

Safety Management Systems (SMSs) are essential to protect workers and ensure operational excellence, especially in asset-intensive industries. There are many commonalities in SMSs implemented across a range of organizations, but each industry is different with its own set of unique challenges. Therefore, an SMS will include both common elements and industry-specific attributes.

For the pipeline industry, July 2017 marks the second anniversary of the release of the ANSI/API Recommended Practice 1173 Pipeline Safety Management Systems standard by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The pipeline safety management system (PSMS) framework is recommended for organizations that operate hazardous liquids and gas pipelines jurisdictional to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The recommended practice (RP) helps pipeline operators implement a management system to identify and manage risks, promote a learning environment, and continuously improve pipeline safety and integrity. The RP integrates the holistic approach of the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle and is the american national standard for pipeline safety management systems.

can help pipeline operators in the oil and gas industry implement a safety management system according to the API’s RP 1173. The RP identifies ten essential elements that must be part of any PSMS. Let’s look at each individual element taken directly from the RP and how EHS software helps address requirements.

Leadership and Management Commitment

Pipeline operators must show a commitment to safety by developing, publishing and communicating policies, goals and objectives, as well as roles and responsibilities at all levels of the organization. They must also measure the effectiveness of the PSMS.

Use EHS software for document control and policy management to address this element. The software allows you to control the versioning of policy documents, provide access to policies to all employees through one central location, and track employee acknowledgement of new or updated policies.

Stakeholder Engagement

Pipeline operators must identify their internal and external stakeholders, and develop and plan a process for communicating with stakeholders regarding the following: risk identification and management, safety performance, and other applicable elements.

Use an EHS software system’s stakeholder management capabilities to manage and prioritize stakeholders. The software system helps you determine and define the type of information that each stakeholder should receive, and automate the dissemination of the information.

Risk Management

Pipeline operators must put in place a system for by identifying pipeline assets, and hazards to pipeline safety. They must also evaluate risks by taking in account the likelihood and consequences of adverse events, and put in place measures to mitigate these risks.

Use an integrated platform for EHS and risk management to maintain a risk register that includes all hazards, risks, and preventive and corrective controls across the entire pipeline network. In the platform, any near miss, accident or adverse event generates a new risk requiring control measures and triggering corrective and preventive action plans.

Operational Controls

Pipeline operators must maintain written procedures for the safe operation of each asset or facility that are consistent with safety policies and objectives. Procedures that address safe work practices, as well as a procedure for management of change (MOC) must also be maintained. In addition, a process for the management of contractors must be defined and documented.

An EHS software system provides central access to all documents on procedures to control changes and revisions, and to ensure that employees only see the latest versions. In addition, contractor safety capabilities help you evaluate the safety performance of contractors by keeping track of incidents involving them, including near misses and accidents. Finally, EHS software provides a global view of all change requests, and implements an effective change management system through workflows, checklists, automatic notifications and validation processes.

Incident Investigation, Evaluation, and Lessons Learned

Pipeline operators must maintain a procedure for investigating incidents, including near misses and accidents. Incidents must be promptly investigated, lessons learned must be communicated, and recommendations must be made to improve pipeline safety and prevent future incidents.

Incidents are reported through an EHS management software, including in real-time through mobile devices. After each incident, EHS software can trigger corrective and preventive action plans to launch investigations that help identify root causes and prevent the recurrence of incidents.

Safety Assurance

Pipeline operators must evaluate the proper application of their PSMS, and show progress achieved towards effective risk management and improved pipeline safety performance. Audits to examine conformity with the RP must be performed, and evaluations of risk management effectiveness, safety performance, safety culture and PSMS maturity must be made.

Through an EHS software system’s audit management capabilities, you can prioritize, schedule and administer audits and self-assessments by using workflows, questionnaires and checklists. The system helps you assess conformity with policies that are part of the PSMS. In addition, you can centralize audit data and keep a trail of audits to track progress.

Management Review and Continuous Improvement

Top management of pipeline operators must review at least annually the PSMS to evaluate progress, and determine whether performance goals and objectives have been met. Management must continue to improve the effectiveness of the PSMS by using pipeline safety policies and objectives, audit and assessment results, data analysis, and corrective and preventive actions.

EHS software produces different types of dashboards, including those tailored for management that provide a snapshot of relevant, important information including: progress made towards the achievement of objectives, most serious risks that can undermine objectives, outstanding or incomplete action plans, safety performance of critical sites, facilities or assets, etc.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Pipeline operators must maintain procedures for responding effectively to pipeline incidents. Emergency preparedness and response plans must be in place and ready to be deployed at any moment’s notice. The plans must be accessible and communicated to all employees and contractors.

Use EHS software as the central repository for all emergency preparedness and response plans. The EHS software system allows you to control revisions, and track employee and contractor acknowledgements of the plans. In addition, by deploying a mobile safety app, you can better protect workers by sending safety alerts and notifications in real-time.

Competence, Awareness, and Training

Pipeline operators must make sure that employees and contractors whose responsibilities fall within the scope of the PSMS have the appropriate level of competence, as well as the required skills and experience. Training needs must be defined, and training must be provided to employees and contractors.

An EHS software system keeps track of training, certification and licensing needs pertaining to employees and contractors alike, and keeps a record of training already taken. It also schedules specific training courses and provides alerts if employees or contractors fail to take courses on time. In addition, the software helps you manage data on contractors, to benchmark their performance and qualifications.

Documentation and Record Keeping

Pipeline operators must maintain a procedure for the identification, distribution, and control of documents required by their PSMS. The procedure must specify responsibilities for document changes, reviews, revisions, approvals and updates.

An EHS software system automates the entire document control cycle and standardizes the document approval workflow across the organization. Through the software, you can initiate requests for document creation, edits, revisions, access and archiving, and manage document versions.

Finally, the API’s RP 1173 uses the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) method for continuous improvement. provides the tools to enable and maintain an iterative PDCA cycle, which is at the heart of all management systems. Leveraging EHS software to implement management systems is a common practice for such standards as ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety, to be replaced by ISO 45001), ISO 31000 (Risk Management), ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and others. For pipeline operators, EHS software can address requirements of a pipeline safety management system and set the stage for improvements in other areas beyond pipeline safety.

Download NAEM’s 2017 EHS and Sustainability Software Buyer’s Guide and learn more about the business objectives for EHS and Sustainability software buyers, desired software capabilities, and their selection criteria.

NAEM 2017 EHS & Sustainability Software Buyer’s Guide