API RP 1173: Pipeline Safety Management Systems

Pipelines are one of the safest methods for transporting the substances that power our homes and communities. In fact, a study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research shows that pipelines are about 30 times safer than trains or trucks for transporting oil.

Although pipelines are relatively safe, aging infrastructure, natural disasters, and a lack of clear guidance from government and industry all increase the chances of an unforeseen event. And when a pipeline does fail, it can have devastating effects on people and the environment.

Until recently, the pipeline industry had no systematic way to address these risks and drive safety improvement. One way the pipeline industry and regulators are tackling this problem is through the American Petroleum Institute’s Recommended Practice 1173, or API RP 1173.

In this article we’ll walk you through the basics of API RP 1173, so you’ll be able to better understand what the standard means for the pipeline industry. We’ll also show you some of the tools available to help your company implement API RP 1173 successfully.

What is API RP 1173?

API RP 1173 is a standard that outlines requirements for a pipeline safety management system. It provides organizations that operate hazardous liquids and gas pipelines with a framework to continually improve their safety performance.

According to the American Petroleum Institution (API), the standard was developed as a way to raise the bar on pipeline safety and meet the industry goal of zero incidents. “Pipelines are safe and efficient, but we are always looking for new ways to make them better, which is why industry is embracing this new standard,” said API Midstream Director Robin Rorick. “It’s also a great example of what can be done when industry, regulators and all key stakeholders work together to achieve a common objective, which is to protect the public, the environment and provide the fuels Americans need.”

Thus, API RP 1173 Pipeline Safety Management Systems was born in 2015. The standard was developed with input from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), state regulators, and other key stakeholders.

How does a company implement API RP 1173?

API RP 1173 is a recommended practice, not a regulation. Many companies are choosing to implement the safety management system as a way to systematically manage risks and improve safety outcomes.

Like other management system standards, API RP 1173 provides a framework for companies to follow. This framework can be applied to pipeline operations of any size, from 10 employees to 10,000.

If you already use other management system standards, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 45001, you’ll be familiar with the pipeline safety management system’s “Plan-Do-Check-Act” format. It is designed to integrate easily with your existing company-wide safety management systems.

Keeping track of all of the information needed for API RP 1173, such as incident and near miss reports, audits, and inspections, can be challenging. Excel is a common way to manage safety data. However, many companies find that spreadsheets are time-consuming and error-prone. Perillon’s centralized EHS software can help companies wrangle all the information needed for their pipeline safety management system.

Let’s look at a few ways Perillon can help meet the various elements of the standard:

  • Documentation and record keeping: Standardize and centralize storage of important documents, such as permits, maintenance records, audits and inspections
  • Incident investigation, evaluation, and lessons learned: Manage incidents such as spills, releases, and non-conformances; report and track injuries, illnesses, and near misses; automatically notify need-to-know staff; trigger corrective actions, analyze incident rates by location, category, and severity to guide decision-making
  • Competence, awareness, and training: Manage safety training requirements; track employee training status; analyze training effectiveness trends related to specific issues identified during investigations
  • Emergency preparedness and response: Establish emergency response plans; assign tasks to specific users; track actions through to closure
  • Risk management: Perform audits and inspections in the field — even offline; score risks to establish risk profiles; automatically trigger corrective/preventive actions

To learn more, request a custom demo of our EHS software.

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