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New York’s release on Operator Qualification

The State of New York Public Service Commission has released a memorandum and resolution adopting the amendments to 16 NYCRR PART 255 as found in CASE 19-G-0736, effective March 18, 2022. Here are a few highlights of interest to both operators and contractors performing Operator Qualification (OQ) covered tasks within the State of New York:

In Chapter III, Gas Utilities, Subchapter C, Safety Part 255, Transmission and Distribution of Gas – 

  1. 255.3(a)(10) The definition of a covered task is being expanded to a more inclusive two-part test: Covered tasks are all activities, identified by the operator, that are performed on a pipeline facility; and affect the safety or integrity of the pipeline. This definition will likely place some previously non-covered tasks under OQ.
  2. 255.3(a)(45)(iii) The definition of qualified is being expanded to include a demonstration of knowledge required to perform the covered task, such as selection, maintenance requirements, calibration requirements and proper operation of equipment, etc. This will require additional training.
  3. 255.3(a)(51) Span-of-control (SOC) will be limited to directing and observing a non-qualified individual performing a single covered task. There is no limit to the number of tasks that may be observed under SOC in the federal OQ Rule.
  4. 255.604(a)(1) Operators will be required to identify Abnormal Operating Conditions (AOCs) with specificity to the operator’s system. Specificity has always been part of establishing AOCs; however, now it will be required under this section. This will require operators to develop more robust processes for identifying AOCs.
  5. 255.604(a)(2) Training will now be required in New York, not only ‘as appropriate’ which is the current federal requirement. The operator’s OQ Plan must detail the minimum training requirements per covered task. Training will be required to include hands-on learning or simulations.
  6. 255.604(a)(3) Training must be specific to the operator’s procedures and on the type of equipment used by the operator to perform the task. This could create the need for additional custom training content for NY operators.
  7. 255.604(a)(3)(ii) Evaluations shall not be conducted within 48 hours of training. This is a significant change that will require operators to establish waiting periods between individuals receiving training and being tested over the material they received training in.
  8. 255.604(a)(3)(iv) AOC questions used in qualification testing must be critical questions.This means the individual cannot receive a passing grade on an assessment if any AOC question is answered incorrectly. 
  9. 255.604(a)(8) OQ Plans will be required operators to include a Management of Change process that will require communication of changes deemed significant by the operator.
  10. 255.604(a)(12) Operators must establish the requirements to be an evaluator, including the necessary training.
  11. 255.604(b)(1)(v) Documentation will be required of the evaluation of ability to recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions, whether task-specific or non-task-specific, that could occur anywhere on an operator’s system. For many operators, this will be additional documentation.
  12. 255.604(b)(1)(vii) Training that took place to support the individual’s qualification or requalification for each covered task must be documented.
  13. 255.604(e)(1) An operator must conduct a program effectiveness review within 36 months of the effective date of the rule and at least every 24 months, not to exceed 27 months thereafter.
  14. 255.604(e)(3) The operator shall develop program measures to determine the effectiveness of the qualification program. There are fourteen criteria that must be included in the operator’s program effectiveness review, at a minimum. This significant change could require operators to bring in additional assistance to establish the criteria and to conduct the effectiveness reviews.  
  15. 255.604(f) The operator shall determine engineering functions specific to the design, construction, operation, and integrity of pipelines that contain elevated risk. The operator shall have and follow a written program that includes a training, mentoring, and evaluation process to be used for establishing competency of personnel performing these higher risk engineering functions. This is an entirely new process operators will need to understand and establish.

These measures are significant because they will immediately affect operators and contractors within the State of New York. They may also be a preview of what’s to come on a national level if regulators in other states and the federal government see positive results in New York.

Brian Dresel
Executive Director, Safety & Compliance
Energy Worldnet