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Industry Evolution: Training is Key in OQ NPRM

In this edition of the EWN Educational Series on the Industry Evolution, EWN reviews the significant expansion of mandatory training requirements proposed by PHMSA. The following information summarizes PHMSA’s proposed regulatory changes, guidance provided to PHMSA by the Pipeline Advisory Committees (PACs), and comments regarding the impact of these proposed changes on the industry.

Mandatory OQ Training

Under current regulations, an individual may rely on his/her experience to be evaluated and qualified to perform a covered task, and training is only required “as appropriate.” Specific documentation of training is not currently a qualification or program recordkeeping requirement. PHMSA previously issued guidance on training expectations via FAQs found at:

Current Regulation:

49 CFR 192.805(h) and 195.505(h). After December 16, 2004, provide training, as appropriate, to ensure that individuals performing covered tasks have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the tasks in a manner that ensures the safe operation of pipeline facilities;

The pending OQ NPRM is a significant shift to the current OQ Rule by mandating actual documented training, in addition to evaluations, for a covered task prior to an individual being allowed to perform that covered task (except when doing so under span-of-control). This requirement includes being trained on any company-specific task procedures, as well as providing supplemental training when task specifications, procedures, and/or equipment changes.

PHMSAΓÇÖs Proposed Regulatory Change Regarding OQ Training reads as follows:
49 CFR 192.805(b)(9) & 195.505(b)(9) Provide training to ensure that any individual performing a covered task has the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the task in a manner that ensures the safety and integrity of the operator’s pipeline facilities;

As proposed by PHMSA in the OQ NPRM, significant changes to definitions in 49 CFR 192.803 and 195.503 that impact the training and qualification of personnel include:
Knowledge, skills, and abilities, as it applies to individuals performing a covered task, means that an individual can apply information to the performance of a covered task, has the ability to perform mental and physical activities developed or acquired through training, and has the mental and physical capacity to perform the covered task.

Qualified as it applies to an individual performing a covered task, means that an individual has been evaluated and can:

  1. Perform assigned covered tasks;
  2. Recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions that may be encountered while performing a particular covered task;
  3. Demonstrate technical knowledge required to perform the covered task, such as: equipment selection, maintenance of equipment, calibration and proper operation of equipment, including variations that may be encountered in the covered task performance due to equipment and environmental differences;
  4. Demonstrate the technical skills required to perform the covered task, for example:Meet the physical abilities required to perform the
    1. Variations required in the covered task performance due to equipment and/or new operations differences or changes;
    2. Variations required in covered task performance due to conditions or context differences (e.g., hot work versus work on evacuated pipeline); and
  5. specific covered task (e.g.; color vision, smell, strength, agility, or hearing).

Recommendation from Joint Session of GPAC and LPAC:
The PACs approved PHMSA’s proposed requirements for mandatory training requirements. Although some minor changes were recommended in the overall verbiage, no changes were recommended to the core requirement for mandatory, documented training for all qualified personnel.

Mandatory Supplemental Training

PHMSA also proposed to mandate supplemental training for individuals when procedures and specifications are changed for the covered task. As a result of discussions during the joint GPAC and LPAC advisory session held on June 1, 2016, the requirements for supplemental training were recommended to be modified to limit supplemental training to “significant changes.”

As proposed by PHMSA:
49 CFR 192.805(b)(10) & 195.505(b)(10) Provide supplemental training for the individual when procedures and specifications are changed for the covered task;

Recommendation from Joint Session of GPAC and LPAC:
The proposed rule, relative to 192.805(b)(10), 192.809, 195.505(b)(10), 195.509 as published in the Federal Register and the Draft Regulatory Evaluation are technically feasible, reasonable, cost-effective, and practicable if a phase in period is implemented, and (b)(10) is revised to read as follows: Provide supplemental training for the individual when significant changes are made to the procedures and specifications impacting the performance of a covered task.

The new requirements for supplemental training will be intertwined with the new Management of Change program requirements being proposed in the OQ NPRM, specifically, as it relates to communicating changes to the individuals performing those impacted covered tasks. The new requirement for a Management of Change program in 192.805(b)(7) and 195.505(b)(7) will be reviewed in the next edition of the EWN Education Series on July 19th.

Mandatory Training for Control Room Operations

On July 25, 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a safety recommendation for PHMSA to extend Operator Qualification requirements in 49 CFR 195 Subpart G to all hazardous liquid and gas transmission control center staff involved in pipeline operational decisions (NTSB Recommendation P-12-8). The NTSB also recommended PHMSA develop requirements for team training of control center staff involved in pipeline operations similar to those used in other transportation modes (NTSB Recommendation P-12-7). The P-12-7 and P-12-8 action items are currently listed by PHMSA as open items under development.

The existing regulations regarding Control Room Management in 49 CFR 192.631 and 195.446 require general controller training and touch on the topic of supervisors or others intervening in control room operations, but there are no specific OQ program requirements. Therefore, in direct response to the NSTB recommendations, PHMSA is proposing explicit control room team training for all individuals who would be reasonably expected to interface with controllers during normal, abnormal or emergency situations in 49 CFR 192.631(h) ΓÇô Training, and 195.446(h) – Training.

Accordingly, the PHMSA OQ NPRM specifically states:
The proposed changes would enhance the OQ requirements by clarifying existing requirements and addressing NTSB recommendation to extend operator qualification requirements to control center staff involved in pipeline operational decisions (Safety Recommendation PΓÇô12ΓÇô8).

The PHMSA proposed language on Control Room Training to be added to 49 CFR 192.631 and 195.446 includes:
(h)(4) Training that will provide a controller a working knowledge of the pipeline system, especially during the development of abnormal operating conditions;
(h)(6) Control room team training and exercises that include both controllers and other individuals who would reasonably be expected to interact with controllers (control room personnel) during normal, abnormal or emergency situations.

Mandatory Training for Evaluators

The current regulations do not address any specific requirements for individuals that conduct evaluations on personnel that must be qualified to perform covered tasks, and historically PHMSA has only provided limited guidance via FAQs for individuals serving as evaluators.

Current FAQs, as answered by PHMSA at

2.14 What credentials must a person have to be an evaluator?
Operators may, but are not required to, establish criteria that an individual must meet to be an evaluator. Evaluators should, however, possess the required knowledge to ascertain an individual’s ability to perform covered tasks and to substantiate an individual’s ability to recognize and react appropriately to abnormal operating conditions that might occur while performing these activities. The evaluation process should be objective and consistent. As such, evaluators should be knowledgeable about the subject tasks in order to conduct effective evaluations.

2.15 Must records be maintained documenting evaluator credentials?
The generation and retention of records to substantiate an evaluator’s knowledge is a good practice. It demonstrates to regulators a good faith effort to comply with the spirit of the OQ rule. The generation and maintenance of records to substantiate an evaluator’s knowledge are ultimately, however, at the operator’s discretion.

In the pending OQ NPRM, PHMSA has proposed the following new requirement for evaluators of individuals performing covered tasks.
49 CFR 192.805(b)(11) & 195.505(b)(11) Establish the requirements to be an Evaluator, including the necessary training.

More information about evaluator recordkeeping requirements and evaluator performance will be covered in the July 19th and July 21st editions of this EWN Educational Series, including new records required in 49 CFR 192.809 and 195.509 that are normally reviewed during the inspection of OQ programs. The additional requirements would include records that document evaluator performance and the overall OQ program effectiveness.

OQ for Gathering Lines

As reviewed under the new OQ task requirements in the previous edition of this EWN Education Series, PHMSA has proposed to modify 49 CFR 192.9 and 195.11 to require operators to establish and administer an OQ program covering personnel who perform work on Type A gas gathering lines in Class 2 locations, regulated Type B onshore gas gathering lines and regulated hazardous liquids gathering lines in rural locations.

In previous rulemaking on gathering lines, PHMSA allowed a modified approach for recordkeeping, requiring only a description of the processes used to qualify personnel instead of a description of qualification methods for each individual who is allowed to perform tasks on regulated gathering lines.

As with other OQ requirements under the PHMSA proposed rules, requirements for regulated gathering lines will include operation & maintenance activities, new construction, and mandatory training requirements. As such, PHMSA has proposed full OQ program compliance for regulated gathering lines with the following additions to 49 CFR 192.9 and 195.11:

§ 192.9 What requirements apply to gathering lines?
(d) (8) Establish and implement an operator qualification program in accordance with Subpart N of this part.

§ 195.11 What is a regulated rural gathering line and what requirements apply?
(b)(11) Establish and implement an operator qualification program in accordance with Subpart G of this part before [DATE ONE YEAR AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION OF A FINAL RULE IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER].

In this last section, some insight is provided by PHMSA as to the time allowance that will be provided for the implementation of new requirements. In this case, OQ for regulated gathering lines must be implemented within one year of the issuance of a Final Rule in the Federal Register. It remains to be seen if this implementation time will apply to this and other requirements of the proposed rule.


As a result of changes proposed in the OQ NPRM, PHMSA estimates a total of 16,008 new employees will be subject to participate in an OQ plan, either as a result of new gathering line requirements or because of newly covered tasks. This estimate does not include the impact from additional training requirements for currently qualified personnel, or for the qualification of personnel typically working under span-of-control. Additionally, PHMSA estimates the overall cost to the industry to implement the new requirements of the OQ NPRM would be approximately $3.1 million annually. By contrast, the American Petroleum Institute and other entities estimate the number of impacted employees and the overall implementation cost to the industry to be significantly greater.

Special Note

Although timing for the issuance of Final Rules on these regulatory updates is unknown, it is anticipated that PHMSA will issue a Final Rules on these topics later this year. One factor that may influence the timing is the recent enactment of the PIPES Act of 2016, which includes an emphasis for PHMSA to accelerate the numerous rulemakings outstanding from the 2011 pipeline safety bill. Under the new PIPES Act, PHMSA is required to provide a report to Congress before the end of October 2016 on the status of statutory directives, including the status of each mandate, reasons for its incompletion, and an estimated completion date. The Congressional reporting requirement is anticipated to create some urgency for PHMSA to complete several pending NPRMs, which would include the OQ rule updates.

ItΓÇÖs important to remember that PHMSA is required by law to hold advisory committee meetings with the GPAC and LPAC groups. PHMSA is not bound by the recommendations that are agreed to by the PACs, but will consider those recommendations as they develop a Final Rule.