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Incident management reporting critical part of pipeline safety strategy

March 21, 2014 - Posted by Karen O'Hara

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Messages emanating from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) emphasize the value of a workplace culture that encourages incident management reporting and early intervention.

Section 171.15 of Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR Parts 171-180) requires notice of certain hazardous materials incidents “as soon as practical but no later than 12 hours after the occurrence” by telephone to the National Response Center (NRC) or online. For pipeline incidents, the PHMSA “expects” telephonic reports to the NRC to occur within two hours of the incident and a written report to be filed within 30 days, preferably by electronic submission.

Under 49 CFR, Section, 191.5, (Part 191 addresses transportation of natural and other gas by pipeline) immediate notice of certain gas pipeline incidents is required “at the earliest practicable moment following discovery.”

The PHMSA tracks and sorts data on the frequency of failures, incidents and accidents, causes and consequences by categories such as date, location, type, cause and result. It uses incident data to assess safety trends and guide the development of new initiatives. In a recent development, analysts and others who use hazardous materials data now have the ability to drill down to view specific computer-generated incident reports representative of DOT form 5800.1, the standard incident reporting template.

In August 2013, the agency’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety released the Hazardous Materials Transportation Incidents Data Assessment and Improvement Plan, a comprehensive report containing a series of recommendations in accordance with the MAP-21 Act. The act requires the U.S. DOT to conduct an assessment and develop an action plan and timeline to improve the collection, analysis, reporting and use of data related to accidents and incidents involving hazardous materials.

The plan features a slate of recommendations in response to limitations in the manner in which some data is collected; reporting biases, under-reporting and partially completed forms affect the accuracy and completeness of data; reporting thresholds; and access to and use of incident data include:

Meanwhile, the PHMSA:

  • awarded more than $46 million in Pipeline Safety Base grants to 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and $800,000 to eight universities to study ways to improve pipeline safety.
  • reports that matters believed to compromise safety are referred to its Office of the Chief Counsel. Sanctions may include notices of probable violation, corrective actions and compliance orders. 

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