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What is Operator Qualification (OQ)?

what is operator qualification

Whether you own a gas facilities company or are a pipeline operator, you have to abide by the rules set by the US Department of Transportation, or DOT, to avoid harsh penalties. One such rule is the need for an operator qualification, or OQ, plan and training. Since it’s designed to improve worker safety and wellbeing, it is non-negotiable and well worth reviewing before you start each job. Here is an overview of everything you need to know.

What is Operator Qualification?

The Department of Transportation requires that all employees and contractors who work on gas facilities hold their operator qualification. It is required for workers on all hazardous liquid pipeline job sites, including propane and natural gas. There is no grace period for getting this qualification either. All workers must already have their OQ before working on any covered tasks.

To best abide by the OQ requirement, gas facility owners need to put a training and testing plan in place for their operations. The plan should indicate when, where, and how to complete the operator qualification training and testing process. Beyond that, it should clearly spell out which daily or infrequent tasks are considered covered by the DOT.

Covered Tasks to Include in Your Plan

The Department of Transportation is clear about how to define covered tasks for each gas facilities jobsite. The activities may be any maintenance or operations task performed at the pipeline facility, which paints a broad brush on what’s considered covered. This includes any job duties that center around DOT 49 CFR 192 or 195 requirements. Simply put, if the activity pertains to the operation or integrity of the pipeline, it’s a covered task.

Examples of covered tasks include:

  • Visual inspections
  • Collection of soil samples
  • Ground bed monitoring
  • Alarm system test
  • Operation of all valves
  • Compressor startup
  • Pipe installation and tapping
  • Welding and pipe repair
  • Purge

To be safe, all gas facility owners should have every onsite employee and contractor complete OQ training and testing. Since it improves worker safety, prevents costly mistakes, and ensures DOT compliance, it just makes sense to get it done.

Nine Protocols to Address in Your Qualification Program

As the owner of a gas facility, it is your job to create a specific qualification program suited to your operations. In doing so, you’ll need to address these nine protocols to remain in full compliance of DOT rules.

  1. Identify your qualification criteria, procedures, and plan for your OQ program
  2. List all of the covered tasks performed at your jobsite, including infrequent activities
  3. Document all of the current employees and contractors who handle the covered tasks
  4. Have the listed employees and contractors complete the operator qualification training
  5. Perform regular performance and training evaluations on your employees and contractors
  6. Look at how well your operator qualification program is working and make improvements
  7. Keep detailed records about the program, like employee and contractor qualification status
  8. Oversee any changes made to the program and confirm they abide by DOT regulations
  9. Complete field inspections to confirm that all onsite workers follow your program guidelines

By addressing all nine protocols, you can keep your jobsite in full compliance of the OQ regulations. Remember to keep new training programs in mind whenever you review how your OQ program is working. You may find that many new programs roll out with regulatory changes, so keep your ear to the ground in figuring out what will best benefit your employees and contractors.

Where to Find New Regulatory Information

The operator qualification requirements were originally put into place by the DOT in 1992. Since then, there have been many changes. To keep up to date on those changes, you’ll want to check out their regulations page on a monthly basis. If you’d like help understanding the rule updates and how each one impacts your business, feel free to get in touch with our team. We are well-versed in all the current rules and are always here to help.

How to Get Help in Creating Your Operator Qualification

If you are worried about exceeding the DOT’s set standards while creating your operator qualification, you could benefit from help from our team at Energy Worldnet. We have many OQ solutions available to best match the needs of your business. Our team can perform a full assessment of your OQ plan or simply train and test your employees. Ready to get started? Just reach out to our sales team today to see how we can help improve your operations and keep you in compliance with all DOT regulations.

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