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2 min read

The Importance of PSMS (Pipeline Safety Management System)

PSMS Tool Kit
Have you heard of the API Recommended Practice 1173?

Do you know what goes into a Pipeline Safety Management System (PSMS)? Operators around the country are scrambling to ensure that their pipeline systems have some sort of safety management system in place to align with API RP 1173. Today we’ll introduce the importance of PSMS.

If you are wondering how and why this recommended practice came to be, you are not alone. In 2010, there was a pipeline incident in Marshall, MI where hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilled into surrounding lands and rivers. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated this incident and concluded that inadequate pipeline safety was the root cause. Because of this, the NTSB tasked API with writing a recommended practice based on the findings of the investigation; thus, API RP 1173 Pipeline Safety Management System Requirement was born.

API is aware that improvement can always be made when it comes to safety. To align with the industry goal of zero accidents/incidents, API created PSMS as a continuous improvement process that follows the Plan, Do, Check, Act model. That means that is it is a cyclical process that is never “complete.” Within this continuous improvement process, there are 10 key elements that API outlines as critical to the pipeline safety management process. Those 10 elements are:

  1. Leadership and Management Commitment
  2. Stakeholder Engagement
  3. Risk Management
  4. Operational Controls
  5. Incident Investigation, Evaluation & Lessons Learned
  6. Safety Assurance
  7. Management Review and Continuous Improvement
  8. Emergency Preparedness and Response
  9. Competence, Awareness &  Training
  10. Documentation and Record Keeping

As we have seen before in this industry, Recommended Practices do not disappear; on the contrary, they tend to move toward regulation (i.e. The OQ Rule). However, PHMSA is not mandating API 1173. They just want to see that pipeline Operators are implementing some sort of Safety Management System. The PHMSA Deputy Associate Administrator, Linda Daugherty, has said that “all SMS standards have very similar requirements. PHMSA does not care which flavor of SMS you choose. Look for commonalities and what fits best for your company.” As an ANSI-designated standards document, API RP 1173 is the nationally recommended practice for a pipeline safety management system in the US. Leadership commitment, support, and allocation of resources are the first steps in the process of creating a successful PSMS program.

Be on the lookout for an upcoming EWN series of articles on each element of a Pipeline Safety Management System. Also, check out the “Pipeline SMS Planning Tool!” API has provided a spreadsheet that assists in the initial implementation of PSMS. Click on the link below to find the planning tool and instructional guide.

Learn more about EWN’s involvement with PSMS – email us at