Updated API Standard for Pipeline Public Awareness Programs Enhances Public Safety
The American Petroleum Institute (API) in August released an updated standard for pipeline public awareness programs, which help protect buried utilities, local communities and the people who live and work near pipeline rights of way.
Recommended Practice (RP) 1162, Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators, 3rd edition, establishes minimum requirements and offers updated guidance for operators of pipeline and storage systems that are required by federal or state laws to implement public awareness programs.
Communication and information sharing has changed since the first edition of RP 1162 was published in 2003 and incorporated by reference into regulation by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) in 2005. For example, that publication predated the rise of social media, digital platforms and text messaging as vital methods of providing pipeline safety information to stakeholders. Other drivers behind the revision were a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis, including a review of inspection learnings led by PHMSA, and a subsequent review of the SWOT analysis findings by an industry team.
In addition to building on more than 15 years of learnings from the implementation of public awareness programs, as well as a review of similar programs in peer industries, the newly revised edition:
- Allows flexibility for using social media, digital platforms and emerging technologies
- Introduces new language to address certain operational changes that may require additional communication based on the introduction of new hazards or a change in emergency contact information
- Clarifies terms that had not been consistently defined in the first edition
- Updates the frequency of communication with key stakeholders
- Provides guidance on when operators may benefit from participating with other pipeline operators in collaborative programs while still meeting their program objectives
A key difference between RP 1162 and other non-technical standards is a requirement to measure program effectiveness and revise programs as indicated by that evaluation. Behavior change, a key evaluation element in the first edition, has been replaced in the third edition with a requirement to measure behavioral intent, or the percent of stakeholders who state they intend to behave in alignment with guidance or messaging. This change is intended to enhance communication and help operators better understand stakeholders’ knowledge of pipelines and pipeline safety.
The third edition is also organized around a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) framework, or implementation cycle, for public awareness programs. The PDCA cycle—a four-step iterative process for continuous assessment and improvement—was introduced in API RP 1173, Pipeline Safety Management Systems.
The task group, which began work on the third edition in 2017, was comprised of pipeline operators, emergency responder associations, educational institution representatives, industry consultants and public awareness consultants, industry trade associations, and federal and state pipeline safety regulators. Additionally, the task group sought external expertise on leading practices in risk communication, measurement of communication and outreach programs, as well as public participation in infrastructure projects.
For more information on RP 1162 and API’s extensive library of standards developed to enhance safety, operational performance and sustainability, visit www.api.org.