Industry Evolution: New OQ Task Requirements


OPERATOR QUALIFICATION: DEFINITION OF A ΓÇ£COVERED TASKΓÇ¥

The OQ NPRM proposes to change the OQ Rule criteria for what constitutes a ‘covered task’ from the current 4-part test to a much broader 2-part test. Currently, a covered task is defined as follows:
(1) Is performed on a pipeline facility;
(2) Is an operations or maintenance task;
(3) Is performed as a requirement of this part; and
(4) Affects the operation or integrity of the pipeline.

Under the pending NPRM, instead of determining a covered task by the 4-part test, PHMSA proposed to define a covered task as any maintenance, construction or emergency response task (part one) the operator identifies as affecting the safety or integrity of the pipeline facility (part two). PHMSA’s assertion is that the ‘4-part test’ omitted important tasks, such as all construction tasks on new pipelines and certain operation and maintenance tasks not specifically required under 49 CFR 192 or 195.


Recommendation from the Joint GPAC and LPAC Session on June 1, 2016:
PHMSA proposed a new definition of covered and emergency response tasks were not adopted by the PACs. Instead, the PACs voted to retain a modified version of the current 4-Part test for covered tasks. Accordingly, 49 CFR 192.801(b) & 195.501(b) were recommended to PHMSA to be revised as follows:
(b) For the purpose of this subpart, a covered task is an activity, identified by the operator, that:
(1) Is performed on a pipeline facility;
(2) Is an operations or maintenance task – including those conducted during an emergency response or is a construction task or an integrity management task;
(3) Is performed as a requirement of this part; and
(4) Affect the operation or integrity of the pipeline.
(c) Design and engineering tasks performed off the pipeline facility are not included.

OPERATOR QUALIFICATION: NEW REQUIREMENT FOR GATHERING LINES

PHMSA further 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.

Recommendation from the Joint GPAC and LPAC Session on June 1, 2016:
No changes were proposed by the PACs to the new OQ requirement in 192.9 and 195.11 for 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.

OQ COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS

To comply with this broader definition and new requirement, should these proposed changes make it into the Final Rule, companies will need to revise their established Task List and Written OQ Plan to identify and document all additional tasks that meet the new definition of a covered task. This may include the following:

(1) O&M tasks that previously were left out under the 4-part test
(2) New construction tasks
(3) Tasks performed beyond the actual pipeline facility (e.g., in a repair shop/fab shop)
(4) Tasks performed on Type A gas gathering lines in Class 2 locations, Type B onshore gas gathering lines, and regulated rural hazardous liquid gathering lines
(5) Emergency response tasks
(6) Requirements included as part of industry standard reference documents, such as API or ASME standards

Companies will also be required to identify all individuals performing these newly defined and identified tasks, and ensure workers are qualified to perform these tasks in accordance with new mandatory task training and qualification requirements, including both initial and subsequent qualifications. If the GPAC and LPAC recommended modifications are accepted by PHMSA, the revision and retention of a modified 4-part test could serve to rein in what could otherwise become an overly broad and unwieldy definition for a covered task.

OQ: SPAN-OF-CONTROL

PHMSA has proposed the following definitions for Span of Control, and Direct and Observe.

In the OQ NPRM, span-of-control is defined by PHMSA to mean the ratio of nonqualified to qualified individuals where the nonqualified individual may be directed and observed by a qualified individual when performing a covered task, with consideration to the complexity of the covered task and the operational conditions when performing the covered task.

Direct and observe was defined by PHMSA to mean the process where a qualified individual personally observes the work activities of an individual not qualified to perform a single covered task and is able to take immediate corrective action when necessary.

Effectively, the PHMSA proposal changes all span-of-control ratios to not to exceed one qualified person to one non-qualified person (1:1). This would eliminate 1:3 and 1:5 span-of-control limits commonly used in the industry for non-qualified workers.

Recommendation from Joint Session of GPAC and LPAC:
The PACs approved a revision to PHMSA proposed change to the definition of Direct and Observe for purposes of span-of-control, as follows: Direct and observe means the process where a qualified individual observes the work activities of an individual not qualified while performing a covered task and is able to take immediate corrective action when necessary.

OQ COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS

This broadened scope of new tasks and limitations on the use of span-of-control for non-qualified personnel will require Operators and their contractors to make the following changes:
1. Update their Written OQ Plan to reflect the appropriate definition and use of span of control and direct and observe for non-qualified personnel
2. Revise their established Task List with the new Span-of-Control limits of 1:0 or 1:1
3. Identify all individuals performing newly defined and identified tasks, and ensure workers are qualified to perform these tasks in accordance with new mandatory task training and qualification requirements, including both initial and subsequent qualifications. (This mandatory training requirement will be discussed further in the July 14th edition of this EWN Educational Series.)
4. Monitor field operations to ensure non-qualified personnel is not working outside the new span of control limitations. (This element will be discussed further in the July 21st edition of this EWN Educational Series on proposed Program Effectiveness Reviews.)

CONCLUSION

Although timing for the issuance of a Final Rule on these regulatory updates is unknown, it is anticipated that PHMSA may issue a Final Rule on these topics later this year. One factor that may influence the timing is the recent enactment of the PIPES Act of 2016 (as covered in the July 7th edition of this EWN Educational Series), 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.

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

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