AGA Board Recommends Holistic Approach to Improving Pipeline Safety

News Release May 21, 2019

Fort Lauderdale, FL – The American Gas Association (AGA) Board of Directors approved a resolution recommending that all members implement Pipeline Safety Management Systems (PSMS), or API RP 1173, a holistic approach to improving pipeline safety that includes the identification, prevention and remediation of safety hazards.

“We never stop searching for new and innovative ways to enhance the safety of the natural gas delivery network,” said AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert. “Safety is at the very core of what we do, and Pipeline Safety Management Systems is yet another way that America’s natural gas utilities go above and beyond to protect our employees, customers and the communities that we serve.”

At the heart of PSMS is a safety culture promoting non-punitive reporting and consistent self-evaluation to help identify top-priority risks, taking steps to reduce these risks in an effort to prevent incidents from occurring. PSMS manages pipeline safety through continuous monitoring and improvement and its “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle. PSMS requires operators to determine the steps to be taken to evaluate and enact changes/improvements within 10 specific elements.

Some elements of PSMS include:

  • Leadership and Management Commitment
  • Management of Change processes for asset, compliance, procedure and organizational changes
  • A Corrective Action Program that logs, tracks and follows up on hazards submitted by employees and contractors

AGA has created a PSMS Discussion Group, will continue to hold an annual PSMS workshop and has published “Guidelines for Understanding Pipeline Safety Management Systems.” AGA will continue to work with other industry stakeholders to develop a series of tools to help members implement PSMS and evaluate their current programs against the full requirements of PSMS.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration shows that natural gas pipeline incidents have continued to decline over the past 20 years. Between 2014 and 2018, excavation damage and other outside forces were the leading causes of serious incidents on distribution systems. Most serious excavation incidents were caused by third-parties (75%) and most other outside force incidents were related to vehicular damage (68%). AGA works closely with the Distribution Contractors Association, Common Ground Alliance and other industry allies and strongly supports enforcement of the 811, Call Before you Dig, program. Additionally, AGA advocates for the reduction of excavator exemptions within state damage prevention laws, with a focus on reducing the number of natural gas safety incidents to zero. AGA also tracks employee safety data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and vehicular safety data.

The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 75 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 71 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than three-tenths of the United States' energy needs.