OQ Guide for Small Distribution Systems
Apr 1, 2004

Acknowledgements

The Small System Operator Qualification Guide Material Project was part of a national effort initiated by the United States Department of Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration, Office of Pipeline Safety.

In April of 2003, a team of individuals representing the liquid pipelines, natural gas industry, and regulatory representatives from around the country, were tasked with development of guidance for small system operators of liquid and natural gas systems, to comply with the Operator Qualification (OQ) Rule. The Small System Operator Task Force (SSOQ) in this document has developed:

  • A list of definitions which may be helpful in understanding the OQ Rule,
  • Model Plan for compliance to OQ Rule,
  • A “How to Guide” to comply with OQ,
  • Guidance material which explains OQ audit protocols, which will be used to review an operator’s OQ program.

The following SSOQ members are recognized as experts in their fields and have given generously of their unique knowledge. They were directly involved in the development of this guide material.

Richard G. Marini — Co-Chair — New Hampshire — Regulatory
Michael Comstock — Co-Chair — City of Mesa, Arizona — Municipal
Bert Kalisch — American Public Gas Association
Daren Gilbert — California Regulatory
Dave Hraha — Iowa Municipal Organization
Don Stursma — Iowa Regulatory
Glen Tong — California Regulatory
Jim Hotinger — Virginia Regulatory
John Gawronski — OPS Consultant — Regulatory
Ken Taylor — White Mountain Oil Company — Liquid
Lane Miller — Transportation Safety Institute — Regulatory
Mike Bostic — Dennbury Company — Liquid
Massoud Tahamtani — Virginia Regulatory
Phil Bennett — American Gas Association
Rudy Parcel — Iowa Municipal Organization
Stanley Kastanas — OPS — Regulatory
John Erickson — American Public Gas Association

This guidance material was implemented under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The material relies on sources representing the best opinion on the subject at the time of publication. However, it should not be assumed that all acceptable safety measures and procedures are mentioned in this manual. The reader is referred to the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR Parts 190-199, Part 40 and also NFPA 58 & 59) for the complete pipeline safety requirements.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A SMALL SYSTEM OPERATOR

All stakeholders in the pipeline industry fully support the operator qualification (OQ) protocols developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in response to the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002. It is also recognized there is a need for effective guidance for small system operators (i.e., those with less complex gas distribution systems) about how to comply with the protocols. In response to this need, federal and state pipeline safety regulators as well as representatives of small systems committed to develop that guidance and a set of criteria to assist operators who operate less complex pipeline systems.

The one constant and underlying goal of the group developing the characteristics of a small system operator, and their protocols, was to ensure that the level of safety provided by OPS’ OQ process was maintained and the effectiveness of the rule was not compromised.

The fundamental rationale for having a different set of criteria for small system operators is that many of these operators have a less complex system and management structure. Therefore, such an operator does not need many of the processes and formal management structure described in the current OQ protocols. Both pipeline safety regulators and the regulated industry need to share a common understanding of the “general characteristics” of a small system operator to ensure appropriate protocols application during a compliance audit.

A number of system characteristics were discussed by the government-industry team in determining—what is a “small system operator?” To provide general guidance, two characteristics are discussed below.

  1. Resources. Smaller systems have fewer resources available than larger systems, however all operators must comply with the same pipeline safety regulations. Smaller systems have:
    1. Less complex systems than larger operators;
    2. Fewer individuals;
    3. Less complex management structures;
    4. Few layers of management, if any, between the OQ Plan Administrator and its personnel performing covered tasks.
  2. Number of employees performing covered tasks. While this is part of Characteristic 1 above, the government-industry task force agreed that a system with five or fewer individuals performing covered tasks is likely to be a “small operator.” The government- industry task force also agreed that, depending on other relevant factors, a system with more than 10 individuals performing covered tasks could be determined to be a “small operator.”

These factors are not exclusive in determining a “small operator.” It is important to remember guidance material which applies to large operators also applies to small operators. In providing this supplemental guidance for small operators, the team recognized that the state program managers have the authority and must also have the flexibility in making that final determination in a fair consistent manner.

Again, the elements of OQ compliance should be the same regardless of size; none of OPS’ criteria has been eliminated. The small system operator’s protocol elements have been structured to reflect that smaller operators require less formal and less complex OQ compliance programs.

Table of Contents
    PAGE
CHAPTER I — GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING AN OPERATOR QUALIFICATION PROGRAM
  Introduction I-1
  Prepare a Written Operator Qualification Plan I-1
  Identify Covered Tasks I-2
  Evaluate Individuals Who Perform Covered Tasks I-3
  Allow unqualified individuals to perform a covered task if directed and observed by an individual who is qualified I-5
  Post Accident/Incident Evaluation I-5
  For Cause Evaluation I-6
  Communication of Changes I-6
  Establish re-evaluation intervals I-6
  Training I-6
  Record Keeping I-7
  Record Retention I-7
  Contractors I-7
  Record Keeping for Contract Personnel I-8
  Inspection Protocols I-8
CHAPTER II — DEFINITIONS II-1
CHAPTER III — OPERATOR QUALIFICATION PROTOCOLS FOR COMPLIANCE INSPECTION PROCESS
  Statement on the Role of Protocols III-1
  Element 1 III-2
  Element 2 III-7
  Element 3 III-10
  Element 4 III-12
  Element 5 III-15
  Element 6 III-18
  Element 7 III-19
  Element 8 III-21
  Element 9 III-23
APPENDIX A — IOWA SAMPLE OQ PROGRAM A-1
Chapter I - GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING AN OPERATOR QUALIFICATION PROGRAM: INTRODUCTION

These guidelines were prepared by a team of industry and government pipeline safety and training experts to assist small operators and master meter system operators to develop programs to ensure that individuals who operate and maintain these systems are qualified for the work they perform. Operators are required to prepare and follow an OQ program by federal regulations at 49 CFR 192 Subpart N and 49 CFR 195 Subpart G, as well as regulations adopted by some states.

OQ programs must identify each individual, whether it be an employee of the operator or an employee of a contractor hired by the operator, who performs covered operations or maintenance activities on the piping system. The OQ program must also identify the “covered tasks” that each individual performs and ensure that each individual is tested to ensure they have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to perform each task, as well as to recognize and react to emergencies that may arise while performing these tasks. The process the operator follows to accomplish these objectives must be in writing. Records of the tests and other actions required in the plan must be made available for inspection by state and federal pipeline safety inspectors.

The following steps should be considered when preparing an operator qualification program.

PREPARE A WRITTEN OPERATOR QUALIFICATION PLAN

The regulations require that you prepare and follow a written OQ plan that at minimum includes the following eight provisions:

  1. Identify covered tasks (operation and maintenance activities affecting the integrity of the pipeline and required by the safety code);
  2. Evaluate individuals performing covered tasks to prove that they are qualified;
  3. Allow individuals who are not qualified to perform a covered task if directed and observed by an individual who is qualified;
  4. Evaluate an individual if there is reason to believe that the individual's performance of a covered task contributed to an incident;
  5. Evaluate an individual if there is reason to believe that the individual is no longer qualified to perform a covered task;
  6. Communicate changes that affect covered tasks to individuals performing those covered tasks;
  7. Establish re-evaluation intervals; and
  8. Describe how training will be used in the OQ program where appropriate (new hires, refresher training for existing employees who transfer to new jobs or fail revaluations, etc.).

In addition to these minimum requirements, the written OQ plan should:

  1. Name the person who will be responsible for ensuring that the requirements of the plan are carried out;
  2. Identify records necessary to carry out the program and where those records will be kept.

IDENTIFY COVERED TASKS

A covered task is defined as any task that:

  1. Is performed on a pipeline facility;
  2. Is an operations or maintenance task;
  3. Is performed as a requirement of this part (Part 192 or Part 195); and
  4. Affects the operation or integrity of the pipeline.

The first step in identifying covered tasks is to identify tasks performed on pipeline facilities. “Pipeline facilities” means all underground piping and outdoor aboveground piping; it generally does not include piping inside customer buildings, although if gas is sold to the customer through a gas meter located inside the building, “pipeline facility” extends inside up to the outlet of the meter.

A good source to identify tasks performed on a pipeline facility is the Manual for Operations, Maintenance and Emergency Response. This will describe operations and maintenance tasks performed on a system.

The following is a list of common operations and maintenance tasks. Not all of these tasks may apply to every system, and there may be additional tasks performed on other systems that meet the definition of a covered task that are not listed here:

Investigating leak/odor complaints
Locating and marking lines
Controlling and monitoring pipeline pressures and product flows
Operating an odorizer
Monitoring natural gas odorization levels (“sniff tests”)
Repairing leaks
Inspecting and testing pressure regulator station and overpressure protection
Tapping pipelines under pressure
Conducting leakage surveys
Joining pipe for maintenance
Inspecting critical valves
Welding on a pipeline for maintenance
Excavating and backfilling
Repairing coating on existing steel pipelines
Measuring pipe-to-soil potential
Coating aboveground piping
Inspecting for atmospheric corrosion
Inspecting the condition of exposed pipe or pipe coating
Installing/replacing a rectifier
Installing/replacing an anode or test station
Inspecting a rectifier
Visually inspecting for internal corrosion
Purging
Patrolling
Isolating sections of pipe or stopping off or otherwise controlling the flow of gas or product to a work site

Certain critical tasks fall outside the scope of the OQ Rule. Relighting appliances and other work performed on gas piping or equipment inside the residences are not covered tasks since they are not performed on a pipeline facility as defined above. Conducting meter dial tests for leaks of internal piping also fall in this category. While individuals performing these tasks are not subject to the OQ program, operators should ensure that competent people to do this work since mistakes can lead to accidents. OQ does not exempt anyone from the general good business practices to use competent individuals for all tasks that are important for the safe operation of your system.

Covered task lists may also be purchased from many industry trade associations and other vendors. If one of these lists is utilized, it must be carefully reviewed to ensure that it includes all the tasks performed on the system. Any tasks that are not performed on your system should also be deleted.

EVALUATE INDIVIDUALS WHO PERFORM COVERED TASKS

Evaluating means testing a person through written tests, oral exams, observation while performing the task on the job or in a classroom or simulated setting, or any other documented method that can prove the individual possesses the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the covered task and recognize and react to “Abnormal Operating Conditions (AOCs).” A checklist is required if observation on the job or a simulation is used for evaluation. To be acceptable, each evaluation must include a document that states what is pass or fail for each step in the evaluation and indicates what knowledge, skills, abilities or AOC’s were tested or observed.

An OQ plan must list the specific evaluations (tests, observations, etc.) that will be accepted as evidence of qualification in each covered task. The list may include more than one acceptable means of qualifying individuals for a task. For example: An operator may adopt their contractors’ evaluations or evaluations by third parties (e.g., associations, vendors, state and local governments) however the operator is responsible to show that the evaluations are appropriate for the way the task is performed on the system.

The operator should be able to demonstrate that the evaluations accepted for each covered task measure the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the task. The evaluations should address critical skills and abilities in addition to critical knowledge needed to perform each task. For example, certain tasks require physical abilities and physical skills critical to accomplishing the covered task, in addition to knowledge of how to perform the task. In that instance, it must be ensured the evaluation includes a test to address the physical ability of the individual to perform the task. The actual evaluation may involve a knowledge-based test, plus a practical application in the field or classroom simulation to demonstrate physical ability and proficiency.

Further, the testing for covered tasks included in the qualification program must also include questions or hands-on demonstrations on abnormal operating conditions (AOCs) associated with the task to both recognize and react to the AOCs. Abnormal operating condition means a condition that may indicate a malfunction of a component or deviation from normal operations that may:

  1. Indicate a condition exceeding design limits; or
  2. Result in a hazard(s) to persons, property, or the environment.

For example, a leaking gas pipe is a malfunction of the pipe (it’s not supposed to leak) and can result in a hazard to persons and property.

Some typical AOCs include:

Fire
Odor report
Leaking gas or product
Component failure
Operation of a safety device
Unintended valve closure
Overpressure
Under-odorized gas

Some AOCs are specific to certain covered tasks (e.g., component failure could be failure of a valve, regulator, relief valve, rectifier, etc., depending on the task). Other AOCs are general and apply to many, if not all, tasks (e.g., anyone performing operations or maintenance tasks should be able to recognize and react to gas odors, leaking product or spills).

Operators must determine credible AOCs and identify how personnel are expected to react to these. Evaluations used by the operator should address how to recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions. AOC evaluations may be broken out into a separate section of the evaluation or may be incorporated within those portions of the evaluations that address routine knowledge, skills and abilities. Operators should be able to demonstrate that all abnormal operating conditions that can reasonably be anticipated to be encountered and related to the task being performed are addressed in the evaluations for that task, particularly if off-the-shelf evaluations are being used.

Some conditions such as recognizing low pipe-to-soil potentials or corroded pipe could be considered abnormal operating conditions or could be considered part of the routine knowledge, skills and abilities for covered tasks such as measuring pipe-to-soil potentials or inspecting pipe condition. For OQ compliance purposes, as long as the evaluations for the covered task address how to recognize and react to these conditions, it does not matter if these are classified as AOCs or normal conditions.

If an operator elects to accept evaluations developed by others, e.g., your contractors, state plumbers licenses, associations or other vendors, that operator must ensure that these evaluations address the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform the task and recognize and respond to AOCs according to the OQ program procedures.

While not specifically required by the regulation, the written OQ plan should address the qualifications of the individuals who will evaluate your employees and contractors. If the evaluations chosen require the evaluator to make a judgment whether the task was performed correctly, then the evaluator should possess adequate knowledge about proper performance of the task so that a proper judgment can be made when evaluating the task.

ALLOW UNQUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS TO PERFORM A
COVERED TASK IF DIRECTED AND OBSERVED BY AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS QUALIFIED

Operators may allow individuals who have not met the evaluation criteria listed in the OQ plan to perform covered tasks under controlled conditions. A written OQ plan must spell out the conditions under which individuals who have not met the qualification criteria may perform tasks while under the observation and direction of a qualified individual. This is intended to allow on-the-job training and temporary labor work teams. The operator must ensure that non- qualified personnel are watched by a person qualified in the covered task being performed and the observer should be prepared to take immediate corrective action should he/she observe work being done that is not in accordance with the operator's procedures, or is being done in an unsafe manner. Supervising from a remote location is NOT acceptable – the qualified individual must be on-site, watching the task and ready to intervene immediately should it be necessary. The written OQ plan should provide guidance on how many non-qualified workers can be directed and observed at one time by a qualified individual and a list of any tasks non-qualified persons will not be allowed to perform (e.g., hot taps).

Operators may specify in the OQ plan that only qualified individuals may perform covered tasks, in which case on-the-job training for covered tasks may not be used even with a qualified individual directing and observing the non-qualified individuals.

POST ACCIDENT/INCIDENT EVALUATION

The OQ plan must specify that the operator will re-evaluate anyone whose performance of a covered task may have contributed to an accident (for hazardous liquid pipelines) or incident (for gas pipelines), either caused it, failed to respond appropriately or made it worse by responding inappropriately. For example, if an accident/incident occurs because a pipeline location was inaccurately marked, the individual who marked the line may have contributed to the accident/incident. Similarly, if an individual opens a valve that should remain closed and that causes an accident/incident to be worse, that contributes to the severity of the accident/incident. The OQ plan must specify the process used re-evaluate these individuals. Re-evaluation need not be by the same methods you used to initially evaluate the individual, but if the operator intends to use a different method, this method must:

  1. Address the knowledge, skills, abilities and AOCs for the task, and
  2. Be listed in the written OQ Plan as an accepted evaluation for the covered task.

FOR CAUSE EVALUATION

The OQ plan must include provisions on how to re-evaluate persons for whom there are reasons to believe that they are no longer qualified. The plan should include some guidance for supervisors to recognize and react to behavior that would trigger these provisions. Reasons could include observation of the person not following procedures, injury or illness that reduces motor skills.

COMMUNICATION OF CHANGES

The OQ plan must specify how changes to policies, procedures, equipment or regulations are to be communicated to anyone who performs covered tasks affected by the change. Re-evaluation may be required if the changes affect the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the task. For example, when purchasing a new leak detection instrument, an operator should consider whether the new instrument is basically the same as the old instrument it replaces, in which case you need only communicate to the persons using the device that it has been replaced. If, however, the new instrument operates on a different principle than the one it is replacing, it may be necessary to retrain the persons using it, develop new evaluations for the new equipment and re-evaluate the persons using it. The OQ plan should also spell out conditions under which re-evaluation will be required such as new tools, equipment and materials or when changes to policies, procedures, etc., require it.

ESTABLISH RE-EVALUATION INTERVALS

To continue to be qualified, individuals performing covered tasks must be periodically reevaluated. Re-evaluation intervals should be based on factors such as:

  1. How frequently is the covered task performed? More frequent performance may justify longer re-evaluation intervals;
  2. How complex is the covered task? More complex tasks may require shorter reevaluation intervals; and
  3. What might the consequences be if the task is performed improperly? What is the worst that could happen if the covered task is not performed correctly, with “catastrophe” justifying shorter re-evaluation intervals and “nothing” justifying longer intervals?

Three years is the commonly accepted interval for most tasks. Intervals over 5 years will require justification. Tasks that are performed infrequently may require re-evaluation prior to performance.

Re-evaluation need not be by the same process as initial qualification but must address the knowledge, skills, abilities and AOCs for the task.

TRAINING

The OQ plan should describe how training fits into an operator’s OQ program. While qualification is accomplished through evaluation, not training, some individuals will require training to provide them with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to pass the evaluations for a covered task. Some examples of individuals requiring training are:

  1. New hires
  2. Individuals taking on new tasks (transferred or promoted)
  3. Individuals who fail one or more evaluations

Refresher training should also be considered for individuals who require post incident or for cause re-evaluation. This does not mean that every individual who performs a covered task needs to go through a training program before the individual can be re-evaluated. In fact, a common misconception is that training counts as evaluation for a task. Attendance records, certificates of completion, etc., from training classes are not evaluation records and cannot be used as the basis for qualifying an individual for any task. Where a training course includes written or oral exams, observations on-the-job or in a classroom simulation it is the records of these exams and/or observations that can be counted as evaluations for a covered task as long as they address the knowledge, skills, abilities and AOCs for the task.

RECORD KEEPING

An operator must maintain records to prove that the written OQ plan is being followed. For each individual who performs a covered task on your system, an operator must be able to produce a record of the date the individual passed each evaluation required for each covered task the individual performs, the tasks for which the individual is qualified and the method used to qualify the individual. Records of re-evaluations for cause, post incident and when required by re-evaluation intervals must also be maintained. The method may include any combination of written or oral tests, observation in classroom, on-the job or simulation, or other methods specified in the OQ program as accepted for the covered task. An operator should be able to provide federal or state inspectors with copies of the evaluation methods, e.g., tests or observation checklists used to qualify a person for the task, so that the inspector can determine if the evaluations address the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities for the covered task. You can make an inspection easier on both you and the inspector by having a list of the knowledge, skills, abilities, AOCs and identifying where each is addressed in your observation checklists, test questions and other evaluation tools.

RECORD RETENTION

Records must be maintained for 5 years after the evaluation is no longer required for current qualification for any covered task. In other words, the record retention period is 5 years PLUS the re-evaluation interval specified in an operator’s OQ plan for the covered task. For example, if an operator has a 3-year re-evaluation interval for a covered task, and an individual passes an evaluation on October 28, 2002, then re-passes the evaluation on October 28, 2005, the operator must maintain the record of the October 28, 2002 evaluation until October 28, 2010, since the date October 28, 2005, is the date on which the operator ceases to rely on the October 28, 2002 evaluation for qualification.

CONTRACTORS

Many operators use contractors to perform covered tasks on their pipeline systems. The operator qualification regulation requires that any individual who performs a covered task on a pipeline system be qualified for that task according to THE OPERATOR’S OQ plan. If an operator uses contractors for any covered task, the operator is responsible to ensure that each contractor employee who performs one or more covered tasks on your system is qualified for that task or is being directed and supervised by a qualified individual (if the operator’s OQ plan allows for this).

Below are four approaches to handling contractor qualification:

  1. Operator evaluates the contractor individuals using company evaluations.
  2. Operator allows the contractor to evaluate its personnel using either the operator’s evaluations for the tasks or the contractor’s evaluations for the tasks. In the latter case, the operator should obtain copies of the contractor’s evaluations and ensure they address the same knowledge, skills, abilities and AOCs as the operator’s evaluations for the same tasks. Evaluations must be documented, e.g., test questions are written and observation evaluations include checklists indicating what is observed. These evaluations must listed in the operator’s OQ plan as evaluations accepted for these tasks.
  3. Require the contractor to be evaluated by a third party (e.g., NACE, NCCER, etc.). The operator should contact the third party, obtain copies of the evaluations and verify that they address the same knowledge, skills, abilities and AOCs as the operator’s evaluations for the same tasks. Evaluations must be documented, e.g., test questions are written and observation evaluations include checklists indicating what is observed. These evaluations must be listed in your OQ plan as evaluations you accept for these tasks.
  4. Do not qualify contractor personnel; have one of the operator’s qualified individuals observe and direct non-qualified contractor personnel.

RECORD KEEPING FOR CONTRACT PERSONNEL

If contractor personnel are used to perform a covered task, the operator must be able to produce records that the contractor personnel are qualified for the covered tasks they perform. The record requirements for contractors are exactly as described above for company personnel. The records must indicate the date the individual was qualified, the task(s) for which he/she is qualified and the method of qualification. The method must be a method listed in the operator’s OQ plan as accepted under the OQ plan for the covered task(s) the individual performs.

Contractor qualification records can be kept by the operator, by the contractor or by a third party. If the operator elects to have the contractor or a third party keep the records, ensure that there are provisions for the operator to obtain the records should the contractor or third party go out of business. The operator must be able to produce these records for review for up to 5 years after the last date an individual performs a covered task on your system.

ENFORCEMENT PROTOCOLS

Included in Chapter III are the OQ enforcement protocols. These will be used by state and federal regulators to audit compliance with the OQ regulation. Included in these protocols are questions and guidance that provide insight into what the regulators expect to see when they audit an operator’s OQ program. These protocols can be used to conduct a self-assessment of operator’s OQ programs to ensure that the program addresses all the important components that the regulators expect to see in an acceptable OQ program.

Chapter II - DEFINITIONS

A number of terms contained in the OQ Rule and its implementation found in 49 CFR Part 192, Subpart N and in Part 195, Subpart G, may be unclear and subject to different interpretations by operators and regulatory representatives. The following definitions have been obtained through consideration of gas and liquid pipeline regulations, dictionary definitions of a word or term, operator OQ plans, or other sources.

[Web Editor's Note: All definitions can be found in the Glossary section of this website.]

Chapter III - Element 1: OPERATOR QUALIFICATION PROTOCOLS FOR COMPLIANCE INSPECTION PROCESS

August 6, 2003

(Guidance for Small System Operators Material Included)

Statement on the Role of Protocols

The following protocols have been written to assist federal and state pipeline inspectors who are evaluating operators OQ programs. The protocols are not intended as enforcement instruments or to provide inspectors with additional enforcement authority, but rather are intended to provide inspectors with a template that they can use in the course of their inspections to ensure that operators comply with all elements of the OQ Rule. The objective of the protocols is to ensure that the prescriptive requirements of the rule have been followed by operators. This objective will be accomplished by rigorously inspecting each operator's records to ensure that all persons performing covered tasks on pipeline facilities are properly qualified and that sufficient documentation is maintained for these individuals. Proper record keeping is a key component of the OQ Rule. It Is, therefore, important that inspectors be able to verify that records are maintained for all individuals performing covered tasks.

The OQ inspection form is organized around nine elements, including one for field verification. Each element has one or more associated protocol. Each protocol consists of 4 boxes: (1) a protocol number accompanied by the protocol subject or topic; (2) a protocol question(s) (sometimes followed by “Verify" statements); (3) guidance topics; and (4) the relevant rule language. The protocol topics have been structured into “Protocol Question(s)” to guide inspectors through the OQ inspection process. Each protocol question is followed by "Guidance Topics." The guidance topics list characteristics that the regulator would typically expect to find in an effective OQ program, and that are consistent with the intent of the regulatory language that accompanies each protocol. Some, all, or none of these characteristics may be appropriate depending on factors unique to each operator's OQ program and pipeline assets. Operators should be prepared to demonstrate that their programs address each of these characteristics or to describe how their program will be effective in their absence

Many of the protocol questions are followed by “Verify" statements. These statements have been included because they can be directly traced to specific rule language. Therefore, compliance with each “Verify” statement should be confirmed. Many “Verify” statements (and protocol questions) are followed by a parenthetical statement that indicates that the statement or question is either "enforceable" or “non-enforceable". If the “Verify” statement or protocol question is listed as non-enforceable, the statement or question is not enforceable under the rule, but is nonetheless an important consideration for the operator. Finally, should the inspection process reveal violations of prescriptive requirements of the rule, regulators will take appropriate enforcement actions. Should deficiencies be identified in how operators address program characteristics, inspectors will seek evidence violations related to these deficiencies. Significant inquiries seeking further information related to program characteristics will be communicated to the operator as an integral part of the inspection process.

ELEMENT 1
DOCUMENT PROGRAM PLAN, IMPLEMENTING PROCEDURES AND QUALIFICATION

Scope: This element addresses the characteristics of the operator's OQ program and written plan, and considers how the operator developed its program, how contractors are considered when performing covered tasks, the treatment of AOCs, and the function of training in the initial and continuing qualification of individuals performing covered tasks.

Protocol #1.01 Application and Customization of “Off-the-Shelf” Programs
Protocol Question Does the operator’s plan identify covered tasks and does it specify task-specific reevaluation intervals for individuals performing covered tasks? [Enforceable]
Guidance Topics
The rule requires that operators have a written qualification program that includes provisions to identify covered tasks and the intervals at which re-evaluation of the individual’s qualifications is needed. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. The source of any off-the-shelf listing of covered tasks used by the operator;
  2. The basis for the operator accepting or modifying any off-the-shelf listing of covered tasks;
  3. Whether the operator has identified task-specific re-evaluation intervals;
  4. The basis for the task-specific re-evaluation intervals.
Small Operator Guidance
Has the operator established re-evaluation intervals for each task? Are these intervals consistent with those of other operators? Small operators are likely to accept re-evaluation intervals developed by associations, consortia or other vendors.
Available Material/Information
  1. Covered task list
  2. Re-evaluation intervals for each covered task
  3. Manual for Operations,Maintenance and Emergency Response.
Rule Requirement §§ 192.805/195.505 Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(a) Identify covered tasks;

……………

(g) Identify those covered tasks and the intervals at which evaluation of the individual’s qualifications is needed.

Protocol #1.02 Contractor Qualification
Protocol Question Does the operator employ contractor organizations to provide individuals to perform covered tasks? If so, what are the methods used to qualify these individuals and how does the operator ensure that contractor individuals are qualified in accordance with the operator’ s OQ program plan?
  Verify that the operator’ s written program includes provisions that require all contractor and subcontractor individuals be evaluated and qualified prior to performing covered tasks, unless the covered task is performed by a non-qualified individual under the direction and observation of a qualified individual. Enforceable]
Guidance Topics The operator is responsible for ensuring that all individuals, whether employees or contractors, are qualified to perform covered tasks. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Methods have been approved by the operator to qualify contractor individuals to perform applicable covered tasks.
  2. Provisions have been established and documented to ensure contractors are required to perform covered tasks consistent with the operator's requirements.
  3. Provisions have been established and documented to ensure qualification program requirements are followed by contractors.
  4. Provisions have been established and documented to ensure contractor individuals performing the operator's covered tasks are qualified.
  5. Provisions have been established and documented to ensure the availability and maintenance of qualification records for contractor individuals performing covered tasks for the operator.
Small Operator Guidance
Does the operator's written program include provisions to ensure that any contractor organizations used by the operator to perform covered tasks will have completed qualification of individuals prior to task performance? Does the operator accept evaluations developed by its contractors or third parties? If yes, do these evaluations address the knowledge, skills, abilities and AOCs required for the task? If contractor or other third-party evaluations are accepted, operator should be able to produce copies of samples of each evaluation accepted for any covered task within a reasonable # of days. The operator should be able to demonstrate that the evaluations it is accepting address the same or equivalent knowledge, skills and abilities and AOCs as the operator’s own evaluations for the covered task.
Available Material/Information
  1. Written operator qualification plan
  2. Sample evaluations from contractors and other 3rd parties accepted by the operator for any task
Rule Requirement §§ 192.803/195.503 Qualified means that an individual has been evaluated and can:

(a) Perform assigned covered tasks; and

(b) Recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions.

§§ 192.805/195.505 Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(b) Ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified;

Protocol #1.03 Management of Other Entities Performing Covered Tasks
Protocol Question Has the operator’s OQ program included provisions that require individuals from any other entity performing covered task(s) on behalf of the operator (e.g., through mutual assistance agreements) be evaluated and qualified prior to task performance?
Verify that other entities that perform covered task(s) on behalf of the operator are addressed under the operator's OQ program and that individuals from such other entities performing covered tasks on behalf of the operator are evaluated and qualified consistent with the operator’s program requirements. [Enforceable]
Guidance Topics
The rule requires that individuals performing covered tasks are evaluated and qualified to the requirements of the operator’ s program. This applies to operator employees, contractors hired by the operator, or agents such as another entity that perform the covered tasks. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
The operator either (a) identifies provisions for assessing the evaluation criteria and methods used by other entities performing covered tasks to qualify an individual and to determine if the qualification is consistent with operator requirements, or (b) requires these individuals to be reevaluated.
Small Operator Guidance If the operator is party to any mutual aid agreements, has the operator determined whether individuals borrowed from the other operators are qualified if they are to perform covered tasks? The operator should be able to demonstrate that the evaluations administered by the other operators address the knowledge, skills and abilities and AOCs that the operator addresses in its own evaluations for the covered task.
Available Material/Information
Samples of evaluations from other operators accepted by the operator for any task
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.803/195.503 Definitions Qualified means that an individual has been evaluated and can:

(a) Perform assigned covered tasks; and

(b) Recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions.

Protocol #1.04 Training Requirements (Initial Qualification, Remedial if Initial Failure, and Reevaluation)
Protocol Question Does the operator’s OQ plan contain policy and criteria for the use of training in initial qualification of individuals performing covered tasks, and are criteria in existence for retraining and re-evaluation of individuals if qualifications are questioned? [Non-Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
Training is not a required action under the provisions of the OQ Rule. However, training is a means to ensure that an individual performing a covered task has the necessary knowledge and skills needed to perform the task in a manner that ensures the safe operation of pipeline facilities, as required by the Pipeline Safety Act. As such, it should be incorporated in practices leading to the development and qualification of new employees, as well as in refreshing the knowledge and skills of individuals with considerable experience. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:

The role represented by training in the qualification of individuals to perform covered tasks in:

  • Development of new hires,
  • Correction of problems encountered in evaluation or re-evaluation processes,
  • Correction of individual performance problems (e.g., contributing to an incident or accident through performance of covered tasks),
  • Managing changes in practices or procedures used in performing covered tasks.
Small Operator Guidance The operator should be prepared to identify resources it uses to provide training to new employees or existing employees if necessary? This may include lists of courses offered in-house or by 3rd parties, ( e.g., training entities, training providers, outside sources) as necessary. Any lesson plans, criteria for completion, etc., for OJT training should be available for review. The operator should be prepared to discuss how it identifies and addresses the need for re-evaluation of its personnel should their qualifications become suspect.
Available Material/Information
Training might include in-house, 3rd party or on-the-job training for any of these types of training:
  1. List of the types of training
  2. Outlines of the classes
  3. Lesson plans
  4. Criteria for completion
  5. Evaluation methods
Rule Requirement §§ 192.803/195.503 Definitions
Qualified means that an individual has been evaluated and can:
(a) Perform assigned covered tasks; and
(b) Recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions.
 

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(b)Ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified;

Protocol #1.05 Written Qualification Program
Protocol Question Did the operator meet the OQ Rule requirements for establishing a written OQ program and completing qualification of individuals performing covered tasks?
  Verify that the operator’ s written qualification program was established by April 27, 2001. [Enforceable]

Verify that the written qualification program identified all covered tasks for the operator’s operations and maintenance functions being conducted as of October 28, 2002. [Enforceable]

Verify that the written qualification program established an evaluation method(s) to be used in the initial qualification of individuals performing covered tasks as of October 28, 2002. [Enforceable]

Verify that all individuals performing covered tasks as of October 28, 2002, and not otherwise directed or observed by a qualified individual, were qualified in accordance with the operator’s written qualification program. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that the operator meet certain prescriptive requirements for establishing a written qualification program, identifying covered tasks, and qualifying individuals to perform the identified covered tasks. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Clear responsibilities for implementing the elements of the program (e.g., evaluation & qualification, training, record keeping, contracting) have been established and communicated to managers and supervisors within the organization.
  2. The OQ program requirements have been consistently implemented by the operator’ s organization.
  3. Key terms have been defined and provided to all entities involved in implementing the OQ program to avoid ambiguities and misinterpretations.

Small Operator Guidance
The operator (or the person responsible for its OQ plan, the “OQ manager”) should be prepared to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the provisions of its OQ plan. The operator should be able to explain how each of the provisions of the OQ plan will be implemented.

Available Material/Information

If the operator has chosen an off-the-shelf program, the operator may need to consult with the provider of the program for explanations and justifications to explain the provisions of the program.

Available Material/Information

Written operator qualification plan

Rule Requirement

§§ 192.809/195.509

(a) Operators must have a written qualification program by April 27, 2001.

(b) Operators must complete the qualification of individuals performing covered tasks by October 28, 2002.

Chapter III - Element 2: IDENTIFY COVERED TASKS AND RELATED EVALUATION METHODS

Scope:This element addresses the operator's development of its covered task list and the evaluation methods employed to perform qualification of individuals.

Protocol #2.01 Development of Covered Task List
Protocol Question How did the operator develop its covered task list?
 

Verify that the operator applied the four-part test to determine whether 49 CFR Part 192 or 49 CFR Part 195 O&M activities applicable to the operator are covered tasks. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator has identified and documented all applicable covered tasks. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that the operator identify covered tasks, which are those tasks covered by regulations that meet the four-part test set forth in the OQ Rule. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. The method used by the operator to develop its covered task list was thorough, documented, and considered all tasks performed to meet applicable regulatory requirements by employees and contractors.
  2. The operator understands the personnel qualification-related activities that pose significant risk to the integrity of pipeline facilities (e.g., excavation and backfilling) and has considered them in the development of its covered task list.
  3. The operator identifies how it ensures the addition, revision, or deletion of covered tasks to incorporate changes to operations or regulations.
  4. The operator definition of operations and maintenance is consistent with regulatory requirements as they are applied to pipeline facilities.
  5. The operator identifies the individuals who are qualified to perform the covered tasks.
Small Operator Guidance
The operator should be able to show they have ensured its list of covered tasks performed on its system is complete. Has the operator ensured the covered task list that has been developed fits the operation and maintenance of the system?
Available Material/Information
List of covered tasks
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.801/195.501 (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;
(3) Is performed as a requirement of this part; and
(4) Affects the operation or integrity of the pipeline.

§§ 192.805/195.505 Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(a) Identify covered tasks;

 

Protocol #2.02 Evaluation Method(s) (Demonstration of Knowledge, Skill and Ability) and Relationship to Covered Tasks
Protocol Question Has the operator established and documented the evaluation method(s) appropriate to each covered task?
  Verify what evaluation method(s) has been established and documented for each covered task. [Enforceable]
Verify that the operator's evaluation program ensures that individuals can perform assigned covered tasks. [Enforceable]
Guidance Topics
The operator is responsible for ensuring that all individuals whether employees or contractors, have been evaluated using one or more of the evaluation methods identified in the OQ Rule and can perform the covered tasks assigned to them. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. The evaluation methods used for qualification of individuals performing covered tasks are derived from the requirements of the covered tasks, and consider any unique needs (e.g., the inability to read) of the individuals being evaluated.
  2. Evaluation methods are consistently applied across the operator's organization such that all individuals performing the same covered task are evaluated using consistent methods.
  3. 3. Evaluation methods of operator employees and contractors include the evaluation of an individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities to ensure that the individual can perform the assigned covered tasks.

Small Operator Guidance Does the operator's plan list the evaluations that it will accept as evidence of qualification for each covered task?

The operator should be prepared to produce copies of the evaluations (tests, observation checklists, etc.) used to qualify individuals for each covered task and O&M procedures. The former need not be in the operator's possession, however should be able to be produced within a reasonable # of days following an audit.

The operator should ensure the evaluations address critical skills and abilities in addition to critical knowledge needed to perform each task. For example, certain tasks require physical abilities and physical skills critical to accomplishing the covered task in addition to knowledge of how to perform the task. In that instance, the Operator should ensure its evaluation includes a test to address the physical ability of the individual to perform the task. The actual evaluation may involve a knowledge-based test, plus a practical application in the field to demonstrate physical ability and proficiency. Further, the testing for covered tasks included in the qualification program should also include questions on AOCs associated with the task to both recognize and react to the AOCs.

The operator should validate that:

  • Evaluations address the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform the routine aspects of the task,
  • Evaluations are appropriate for the task as described in the operator's O&M procedures for the specific types of equipment on which the task is performed,
Available Material/Information
  1. List of evaluations accepted for qualification for each covered task
  2. Samples of each evaluation listed in #1
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.803/195.503 Qualified means that an individual has been evaluated and can:

(a) Perform assigned covered tasks; and
(b) Recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions.

Evaluation means a process, established and documented by the operator, to determine an individual's ability to perform a covered task by any of the following:

(a) Written examination;
(b) Oral examination;
(c) Work performance history review;
(d) Observation during:

(1) Performance on the job,
(2) On-the-job training, or
(3) Simulations; or

(e)Other forms of assessment.

 

§§ 192.805/195.505 Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(b) Ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified;

Chapter III - Element 3: IDENTIFY INDIVIDUALS PERFORMING COVERED ASKS

Scope: This element addresses the operator’s documentation of an individual’s evaluation and qualification for performing a covered task and assurance at the job site that only qualified individuals are performing covered tasks. The element also addresses the operator’s development of provisions for performance of a covered task by an unqualified individual under the direction and observation of a qualified individual.

Protocol #3.0 Development and Documentation of Areas of Qualification for Individuals Performing Covered Tasks
Protocol Question Does the operator's program document the evaluation and qualifications of individuals performing covered tasks, and can the qualification of individuals performing covered tasks be verified at the job site?
 

Verify that the operator’s qualification program has documented the evaluation of individuals performing covered tasks. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator’s qualification program has documented the qualifications of individuals performing covered tasks. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that the operator ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified, and that records supporting an individual’s current qualification be maintained while the individual is performing a covered task. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Documentation of the qualification of individuals (including contractors) performing covered tasks is maintained and retrievable by work supervisors to support assignment of individuals to perform covered tasks.
  2. Methods such as a current hard copy list, qualification card, central electronic database, or other forms of covered task qualification information are used at the job site to verify the qualifications of individuals performing covered tasks.

Small Operator Guidance
Can the operator produce the evaluation records for all individuals, employee and contractor, who performed a covered task on its system over the past 5 years (or October 28, 2002, whichever is later)? The operator should be able to provide dates that each individual passed each of the required evaluations, the name of the person who conducted the review, and a copy of a sample evaluation for review. Records may be kept by the operator, a contractor or a third party.

Is information on individuals and the tasks for which they are qualified available to supervisors? Lists should be available. Lists may be hardcopy, on-line, computer or any other media that provides current qualification information to supervisors. Lists need not be maintained at the job site as long as the documentation proves that the individuals performing the task are qualified or being directed and observed by a qualified person

Available Material/Information
  1. For each individual who performs covered tasks, written or electronic records of the date each individual completed each evaluation required for a task and the name of the person who administered the evaluation.
  2. Samples of each evaluation listed in #1.
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(b) Ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified;

§§ 192.807/195.507 Recordkeeping
Each operator shall maintain records that demonstrate compliance with this subpart.

(a) Qualification records shall include:

(1) Identification of qualified individual(s);

(2) Identification of the covered tasks the individual is qualified to perform;

(3) Date(s) of current qualification; and

(4) Qualification method(s).

(b) Records supporting an individual’ s current qualification shall be maintained while the individual is performing the covered task.

 

Protocol #3.0 Covered Task Performed by Non-Qualified Individual
Protocol Question Has the operator established provisions to allow non-qualified individuals to perform covered tasks while being directed and observed by a qualified individual, and are there restrictions and limitations placed on such activities?
  Verify that the operator's program includes provisions for the performance of a covered task by a non-qualified individual under the direction and observation by a qualified individual. [Enforceable]
Guidance Topics
The rule allows the performance of a covered task by a non-qualified individual if that individual is directed and observed by an individual qualified to perform the covered task. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Consideration has been given to tasks that cannot or should not be performed by non-qualified individuals under the direction and observation of a qualified individual, due to their complexity or due to the critical nature of the task.
  2. For tasks where appropriate, guidance on the span of control by qualified individuals of non-qualified individuals has been established on a task-specific basis.

Small Operator Guidance Operators should ensure that non-qualified personnel are watched by a person qualified in the covered task being performed, who would be capable of interrupting the activity to take immediate corrective action should an unsafe action occur. The guidance above for larger operators also applies to small operators, The operator should be prepared to discuss this issue.

Available Material/Information
  1. Written operator qualification plan.
  2. If available, any written guidance to supervisors on how to direct and observe non-qualified individuals.
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provision to:

(c) Allow individuals that are not qualified pursuant to this subpart to perform a covered task if directed and observed by an individual that is qualified;

Chapter III - Element 4: EVALUATE AND QUALIFY INDIVIDUALS PERFORMING COVERED TASKS

Scope:This element addresses the operator’s use of work performance history review (WPHR) as the sole method for initial evaluation of an individual’s qualification to perform covered tasks, and the identification of additional methods of evaluation to be used in addition to, or in place of, work performance history review subsequent to October 28, 2002. The element also addresses the operator’s development of AOCs for covered tasks and the methods employed to communicate AOCs for the purpose of qualification..

Protocol #4.01 Role of and Approach to “Work Performance History Review”
Protocol Question Does the operator use WPHR as the sole method of qualification for individuals performing covered tasks prior to October 26, 1999, and does the operator’s program specify that work performance history review will not be used as the sole method of evaluation for qualification after October 28, 2002?
 

Verify that after October 28, 2002, WPHR is not used as a sole evaluation method. [Enforceable]

Verify that individuals beginning work on covered tasks after October 26, 1999, have not been qualified using WPHR as the sole method of evaluation. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that the operator ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified, and that one or more of the methods identified in the rule are used for evaluation. WPHR is an allowed evaluation method for initial qualification of individuals performing covered tasks prior to October 26, 1999, but may not be used as a sole method of evaluation for subsequent evaluations, or for initial evaluations for qualification after October 28, 2002. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. The operator has established criteria for the use of WPHR as an evaluation method.
  2. The operator did not use WPHR as an initial evaluation method, or used it sparingly and with documented justification.
  3. The operator's written program plan and/or evaluation documentation identifies that after October 28, 2002, WPHR will not be used as the sole method of evaluation for qualification, and that WPHR will not be used as a sole evaluation method for subsequent qualification.

Small Operator Guidance
If the operator uses WPHR as the sole method of qualifying individuals, were these evaluations performed prior to October 28, 2002?

Does the WPHR documentation verify that the individual performed the task prior to October 26, 1999?

Has a review of WPHR documentation verified that there is no reason to question an individual's qualification for the task (e.g., records were searched, supervisors were interviewed and no evidence of lack of competence was found)?

WPHR documentation should include:

  1. The date and name of the person who conducted the review.
  2. Records dated prior to October 26, 1999, showing a person performed a covered task.
  3. Statements by supervisors, if supported by documentation, are acceptable if they address whether individuals had accidents attributable to them.
  4. Reviews that shown the individual has followed the company's operating procedures.
  5. The individual has the ability to recognize and react to AOCs.

Additional Information could include:

  1. Written performance appraisals showing no reason to suspect the person is not qualified.
  2. That training and follow-up reviews have taken place.
Available Material/Information
Records of WPHR, including the date the review was conducted, the name of the person conducting the review, the covered task for which the individual is being qualified.
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.803/195.503 Definitions Evaluation means a process, established and documented by the operator, to determine an individual's ability to perform a covered task by any of the following:

(a) Written examination;
(b) Oral examination;
(c) Work performance history review;
(d) Observation during:

(1) Performance on the job,
(2) On-the-job training, or
(3) Simulations; or

(e) Other forms of assessment.

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(b) Ensure through evaluation that individuals performing covered tasks are qualified;

  §§ 192.809/195.509 General

(c) Work performance history review may be used as a sole evaluation method for individuals who were performing a covered task prior to October 26, 1999.

(d) After October 28, 2002, work performance history may not be used as a sole evaluation method.

 

Protocol #4.02 Evaluation of Individual's Capability to Recognize and React to AOCs
Protocol Question

Are all qualified individuals able to recognize and react to AOCs?

Has the operator evaluated and qualified individuals for their capability to recognize and react to AOCs?

Are the identified AOCs those that the individual may reasonably anticipate and appropriately react to during the performance of the covered task?

Has the operator established provisions for communicating AOCs for the purpose of qualifying individuals?

  Verify that individuals performing covered tasks have been qualified in recognizing and reacting to AOCs they may encounter in performing such tasks. [Enforceable]
Guidance Topics
The ability to recognize and react to AOCs is required for qualification of individuals to perform covered tasks, whether the individuals are employed by the operator or are contractor individuals. The operator must demonstrate that the ability to recognize and react to AOCs is a part of each individual's evaluation for qualification. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. AOCs used for evaluation of individuals performing covered tasks consist of those AOCs that the operator can reasonably anticipate the individual will encounter while performing the covered task.
  2. In addition to task-specific AOCs (i.e., those that may be caused by performance of the task), generic AOCs (i.e., those that may reasonably be encountered during performance of the task) have been identified and used in qualification in cases where special requirements and conditions for the task being performed must be considered.
  3. Evaluation methods for both employees and contractor individuals include evaluation of the appropriate reaction of an individual upon recognition of an AOC.
  4. The operator utilizes incident/accident investigations, employee feedback programs, or other approaches to ensure that the AOCs identified and used in evaluating individuals are representative of those that could reasonably be anticipated during performance of covered tasks.

Small Operator Guidance
The operator should have evaluated its systems and operations to determine credible AOCs and identified how it expects its personnel to react to these.

Evaluations used by the operator should address how to recognize and react to AOCs.

AOC evaluations may be broken out into a separate section of the evaluation or may be incorporated within those portions of the evaluations that address routine knowledge, skills and abilities.

The operator should be able to demonstrate that all AOCs that can reasonably be anticipated to be encountered related to the task being performed are addressed in the evaluations, particularly if off-the-shelf evaluations are being used

Available Material/Information
  1. Samples of the evaluations used to qualify individuals for covered tasks.
  2. Only if the operator has identified AOCs, a copy of the AOC list./li>
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.803/195.503 Definitions abnormal operating condition means a condition identified by the operator that may indicate a malfunction of a component or deviation from normal operations that may:

(a) Indicate a condition exceeding design limits; or

(b) Result in a hazard(s) to individuals, property, or the environment

Qualified means that an individual has been evaluated and can:
(a) Perform covered tasks; and
(b) Recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions

Chapter III - Element 5: CONTINUED PERIODIC EVALUATION OF INDIVIDUALS PERFORMING COVERED TASKS

Scope: This element addresses the operator's review of individuals performing covered tasks when the individuals were involved in an incident or accident, or when an individual is determined to be no longer qualified or the qualification of an individual is questionable. The element also addresses the re-evaluation interval for individuals performing covered tasks.

 

Protocol #5.01 Personnel Performance Monitoring
Protocol Question

Does the operator's program include provisions to evaluate an individual if the operator has reason to believe the individual is no longer qualified to perform a covered task based on:

  1. Covered task performance by an individual contributed to an incident or accident?
  2. Other factors affecting the performance of covered tasks?
 

Verify that the operator’s program ensures evaluation of individuals whose performance of a covered task may have contributed to an incident or accident. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator has established provisions for determining whether an individual is no longer qualified to perform a covered task, and requires re-evaluation [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that the operator evaluate an individual if the operator has reason to believe that the individual's performance of a covered task contributed to an incident as defined in Part 191 or an accident as defined in Part 195, or evaluate an individual if the operator has reason to believe that the individual is no longer qualified to perform a covered task. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:

  1. Methods and documentation exist to determine if individuals are performing covered tasks properly. These methods may include, but not be limited to: internal audits, third-party audits or inspections, assessments of procedure compliance, supervisor reviews, or assessment by a technical specialist.
  2. The operator has addressed the rule requirements in the written program plan and has established implementation requirements that include criteria and documentation requirements.
Small Operator Guidance
The operator's plan should include provisions to:
  1. Re-evaluate an individual involved in an accident,
  2. Re-evaluate an individual if the operator has reason to believe that the individual is no longer qualified.

Reasons an individual may no longer be qualified may include:

  • Injury or physical limitation,
  • Procedures seldom or rarely used by the individual,
  • Observation of an error or incorrect procedure,
  • An incident near-miss,
  • Evidence of an error or incorrect procedure,
  • Any other evidence the individual may need to be re-evaluated and re-qualified. If not spelled out in the written plan, the operator should be prepared to show how it implements these provisions.

If the operator has had to conduct any such re-evaluations, the operator should have records and the reason the re-evaluation was believed necessary.

Available Material/Information
  1. Written operator qualification plan.
  2. If available, any other documentation the operator has developed to implement these provisions.
Rule Requirement

§192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(d) Evaluate an individual if the operator has reason to believe that the individual’s performance of a covered task contributed to an incident as defined in Part 191/accident as defined in Part 195;

(e) Evaluate an individual if the operator has reason to believe that the individual is no longer qualified to perform a covered task;

 

Protocol #5.02 Reevaluation Interval and Methodology for Determining the Interval
Protocol Question Has the operator established and justified requirements for re-evaluation of individuals performing covered tasks?
 

Verify that the operator has established intervals for re-evaluating individuals performing covered tasks. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that an operator identify covered tasks and the intervals at which evaluation of the individual’ s qualification is needed. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Basis for the re-evaluation intervals considering regulatory practice and/or WPHR for similar tasks,
  2. Consideration of the need for task-specific re-evaluation intervals,
  3. Justification of re-evaluation intervals considering at a minimum, the risk inherent in the task and the time between successive performances of the task by a qualified individual.
Small Operator Guidance
Has the operator established re-evaluation intervals for each task? Are these intervals consistent with those of other operators? Particularly if the small operator has accepted re-evaluation intervals developed by associations, consortia and other vendors, the operator should be able to justify the re-evaluation intervals it is using for its personnel are reasonable to retain needed skills for the function
Available Material/Information
A list of re-evaluation intervals for each task.
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provision to:

(g) Identify those covered tasks and the intervals at which evaluation of the individual's qualifications is needed.

Chapter III - Element 6: MONITOR PROGRAM PERFORMANCE; SEEK IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Scope: This element addresses the operator’s plans for continued improvement of the OQ program and investigates mechanisms established for periodic review and revision of the program when warranted.

Protocol #6.01 Program Performance and Improvement
Protocol Question Does the operator have provisions to evaluate performance of its OQ program and implement improvements to enhance the effectiveness of its program? [Non-Enforceable]
Guidance Topics

Although there are no specific requirements in the rule for the operator to review the OQ program periodically and seek to implement improvements over time, it is reasonable that improvements will be identified that should be incorporated into the program as the program matures and the operator gains valuable feedback through a continuing review of performance trends. This item investigates whether the operator has anticipated the evolutionary nature of its program and has established provisions to identify and assess improvement opportunities and implement those that will result in greater program effectiveness and an increased level of safety. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:

  1. The operator has documented in its OQ plan a periodic requirement for program review.
  2. The operator is actively involved in industry groups that seek to improve OQ programs and establish practices that will be identified and documented in consensus standards.
  3. A review process has been established by the operator to assemble feedback on program effectiveness and needed improvements, and to periodically assess the feedback to identify improvements that should be made to the OQ program.
Small Operator Guidance
The person responsible for the OQ program should periodically review the adequacy of the written OQ plan provisions. The operator should be prepared to change and update the plan as deemed necessary. The person responsible for managing the OQ program should communicate changes that affect covered tasks to the individuals who perform the tasks. At a minimum it is recommended to review the OQ plan along with the annual review of the operator's operations and maintenance manual.
Available Material/Information
None
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program.

Chapter III - Element 7: MAINTAIN PROGRAM RECORDS

Scope: This element addresses how the operator implements the rule requirements for retention of records and supporting documentation that establishes the qualification of individuals performing covered tasks and the covered tasks that individuals are qualified to perform.

Protocol #7.01 Qualification “Trail” (i.e., covered task, individual performing, evaluation method(s),continuing performance evaluation, reevaluation interval, reevaluation records).
Protocol Question Does the operator maintain records in accordance with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 192, Subpart N, and 49 CFR Part 195, Subpart G, for all individuals performing covered tasks, including contractor individuals
 

Verify that qualification records for all individuals performing covered tasks include the information identified in the regulations. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator’s program ensures the retention of records of prior qualification and records of individuals no longer performing covered tasks for at least five years. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator’s program ensures the availability of qualification records of individuals (employees and contractors) currently performing covered tasks, or who have previously performed covered tasks. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires certain information to be included in records of qualification for individuals performing covered tasks, and that these records be retained for at least five years. Although not identified specifically, records that are specified in the OQ plan and documentation that is required to demonstrate compliance with rule provisions should logically have retention requirements as part of the OQ program implementation. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Supporting documentation for implementation of the OQ program, including documentation of:
    1. The methodology for identifying covered tasks;
    2. The re-evaluation interval for each covered task and the basis for the re-evaluation interval chosen; and
    3. The approach used to select individuals for evaluation and qualification.
  2. The operator has considered the need for periodic back-up of qualification database information, whether in-house databases or industry databases, to ensure continued availability of information required to meet rule provisions.
  3. The operator has established provisions to ensure the continued presence and availability of contractor records for individuals currently performing, or who have previously performed, covered tasks for the operator.
Small Operator Guidance

The operator should be able to produce evaluation records demonstrating that each individual, employee and contractor, who performed a covered task on its system over the past 5 years (or October 28, 2002, whichever is later) was qualified at the time they performed the covered task. The 5-year record retention period for an evaluation begins the moment the individual ceases to perform the covered task for the operator (e.g., is transferred, retires, resigns, is fired or dies) or the individual is re-evaluated so that the older evaluation is no longer relied on for current qualification. For example, an evaluation passed in 2003 that is re-evaluated in 2006 must be retained until 2011. The operator should be able to provide dates that each individual passed each of the required evaluations and a copy of a sample evaluation for review.

Records may be kept by the operator, a contractor or a third party. If maintained offsite the operator should be able to produce the records within a reasonable time.

Available Material/Information
  1. For each individual who performs covered tasks, written or electronic records of the date each individual completed each evaluation required for a task and the name of the person who administered the evaluation.
  2. Samples of each evaluation listed in #1.
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.807/195.507 Recordkeeping Each operator shall maintain records that demonstrate compliance with this subpart.

(a) Qualification records shall include:

(1) Identification of qualified individual(s);

(2) Identification of the covered tasks the individual is qualified to perform;

(3) Date(s) of current qualification; and

(4) Qualification method(s).

(b) Records supporting an individual's current qualification shall be maintained while the individual is performing the covered task. Records of prior qualification and records of individuals no longer performing covered tasks shall be retained for a period of five years.

Chapter III - Element 8: IDENTIFY COVERED TASKS AND RELATED EVALUATION METHODS

Scope: This element addresses how the operator manages changes to procedures, tools, standards and other changes to the OQ program and how these changes are incorporated into the qualification and evaluation methods for individuals performing covered tasks, and the methods employed to communicate changes to individuals performing covered tasks, whether operator employees or contractors.

Protocol #8.01 Management of Changes (to Procedures, Tools, Standards, etc.)
Protocol Question Does the operator’s OQ program identify how changes to procedures, tools standards and
other elements used by individuals in performing covered tasks are communicated to the
individuals, including contractor individuals, and how these changes are implemented in
the evaluation method(s)?
 

Verify that the operator’s program identifies changes that affect covered tasks and how
those changes are communicated, when appropriate, to affected individuals. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator’s program identifies and incorporates changes that affect covered
tasks. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator’s program includes provisions for the communication of changes
(e.g., who, what, when, where, why) in the qualification program to the affected
individuals. [Enforceable]

Verify that the operator incorporates changes into initial and subsequent evaluations.
[Enforceable]

Verify that contractors supplying individuals to perform covered tasks for the operator are
notified of changes that affect task performance and thereby the qualification of these
individuals. [Enforceable]

Guidance Topics
The rule requires that the operator communicate changes that affect covered tasks to individuals performing those covered tasks. In order to perform this effectively, the operator must have a change management methodology so that it knows when changes are occurring, what changes have an impact on covered task performance, the relative significance of the change and how it affects the continued qualification of individuals, and mechanisms to effectively communicate changes to qualified individuals. Investigation of the following characteristics is important to determine whether the requirements of the rule have been met:
  1. Identification of the methods used to communicate changes to affected individuals.
  2. Means of ensuring that affected personnel are kept up to date on current requirements of the OQ
    program.
  3. Changes to the OQ plan and revisions to the plan are made and communicated to the appropriate
    individuals.

Small Operator Guidance
Operators must consider how changes to their O&M procedures, systems and equipment may affect their OQ plan.

The operator should periodically identify changes which need to be communicated to its workers and addressed in its OQ plan.

The operator should ensure the person responsible for managing the OQ program is:

  • Aware of the need and the importance of ensuring qualified personnel are prepared for changed conditions,
  • Changes affecting covered tasks are communicated to the individuals who perform the task,
  • Fully aware of the written OQ plan provisions to address and manage changes to its systems.

If changes have occurred that trigger this provision, have the evaluations for affected tasks been adjusted to address the change?

Available Material/Information

  1. Written OQ Plan, task list and evaluation requirements
  2. If changes have occurred since the past inspection that triggered changes to any of the above, documentation of what changes were made and why should be reviewed, if available.
Rule Requirement

§§ 192.805/195.505 Qualification Program

Each operator shall have and follow a written qualification program. The program shall include provisions to:

(f) Communicate changes that affect covered tasks to individuals performing those covered tasks;

Chapter III - Element 9: FIELD INSPECTION OF OQ PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION

Scope: This element is intended to be a comprehensive review and overview of the operator’s OQ program application to O&M covered tasks conducted at pipeline facilities and field offices. It is directed towards objective evidence of task performance, qualification of individuals performing covered tasks, field supervisor knowledge of responsibilities assigned under the operator’s OQ program, and similar factors.

Company: Field Location/Address:
Date:
System Information:
Number of Company Employees Under OQ Program at This Location:  
______________________________________
______________________________________
______________________________________
Number of Contractor Personnel Under OQ Program at This Location:  
Inspection Team:
1. ______________________________________
2. ______________________________________
3. ______________________________________
4. ______________________________________
5. ______________________________________
Company Personnel in Interview/Phone Numbers:
1. ____________________________________
2. ____________________________________
3. ____________________________________
4. ____________________________________
5. ____________________________________
Area Inspected Results Acceptable?
Yes No N/A N/I
1. Field/job supervisor responsibilities
  a. Is knowledgeable of OQ program responsibilities ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  b. Conducts frequent observation of covered task performance ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  c. Knows required actions to take when individual’s performance of covered task may have contributed to incident/accident ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  d. Knows factors to consider and required actions to take when individual is identified that may no longer be qualified to perform covered task ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  e. Conducts verification of qualification status of individuals per OQ program requirements for employees and contractors ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  f. Ensures establishment of direct observation and control of unqualified individuals ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  g. Establishes span of control for unqualified individuals appropriate to task:knows company policy ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
2. Procedures for performance of covered tasks
  a. Procedures are present at field location for covered task performance ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  b. Procedures used are same (content, date issued) as approved O&M manual ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  c. Contractor procedures are approved by operator for use ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  d. Individuals are observed adhering to procedures when performing CTs ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  e. Proper tools, techniques, processes employed per procedures ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
3. Abnormal operating conditions
  a. Individuals performing covered tasks know how to recognize AOCs ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  b. Individuals performing covered tasks know how to react to AOCs ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
4. Management of change
  a. Supervisors are knowledgeable of communication process for changes in procedures, tools, techniques ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  b. Individuals performing covered tasks are knowledgeable of communication process for changes in procedures, tools, techniques ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
6. Program improvement
  a. Use of WPHR to evaluate employees/contractors consistent with OQ plan ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  b. Supervisor is involved in evaluation process consistent with OQ plan ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  a. Problems experienced in field with OQ program implementation are fed back to OQ program management ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  b. Process for feedback of program improvement exists from field to HQ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  c. Response provided by HQ to feedback from field ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
  d. Field/job supervisor concerns with contractor qualifications identified ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
7 Consistency of implementation of OQ program requirements
  a. Implementation of program requirements consistent with Company policy (procedures/processes for performing covered tasks) ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿
8. Third Party/Internal Audits or Inspections
  a. Field audits/inspections of covered task performance occur as specified in OQ program (frequency/feedback of results) ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿

For “No” answers, use supplemental sheet to explain details and identify deficiencies that may require enforcement action. Ensure numbering is consistent with Field Inspection Protocol Checklist for OQ Inspection form. “N/A” means item is not applicable to the operator’s OQ program. “N/I” indicates “not inspected.”

1. Field/job supervisor responsibilities

The inspector should review the operator’s OQ program to determine if there are any responsibilities that are not applicable (N/A). For each of the responsibilities listed, observe the performance of or discuss them with the field or job supervisor to determine the acceptability or deficiencies associated with each item.

  1. Many operators identify the job supervisor, facility supervisor, project lead, team leader or other front-line supervisory position as the key field position responsible for ensuring the correct implementation of the OQ program. This item is designed to ensure that this individual is knowledgeable of his/her responsibilities.
  2. Supervisors are also often tasked with observing the performance of individuals in their work group for use in the operator’s performance appraisal program. This item is designed to determine how much of that performance observation is directed toward ensuring the correct performance of covered tasks without deficiencies in adherence to procedures, etc.
  3. One consideration of the OQ requirements is the determination of the need for re-evaluation of an individual if it is believed that the individual’s performance of a covered task has led to an incident or accident. This item investigates the role of the individual’s supervisor in that process and the determination of whether or not this role is consistent with the program requirements.
  4. d. Another consideration of the OQ requirements is determining whether an individual is no longer qualified to perform a covered task, and requires re-evaluation. This item investigates the role of the individual’s supervisor in that process, his/her knowledge of the criteria (if any) that the operator has established to make that determination, and the determination of whether or not this role is consistent with the program requirements.
  5. A covered task must be performed by a qualified individual, or by an unqualified individual who is directed and observed by a qualified individual. If possible, observe the method used to verify the qualifications of individuals, especially contractor individuals, performing covered tasks to see if it is consistent with OQ program requirements. The supervisor may also demonstrate the method used to accomplish this item. Also, confirm that hardcopy records of an individual’s qualification are retained as part of the job/task information.
  6. The OQ requirements allow a covered task to be performed by an unqualified individual who is directed and observed by a qualified individual. If possible, observe the method by which the supervisor establishes the direction and control of unqualified individuals by a qualified individual. The supervisor may also describe the method employed to establish this requirement.
  7. Depending on the complexity of the covered task, the span of control of unqualified individuals performing covered tasks by qualified individuals may be as low as one-on-one or as high as five-on-one. Most operators do not specify task-specific spans of control, but leave the determination to the field supervisor. The field supervisor should be requested to describe what criteria, formal or informal, are used to establish span of control.

2. Procedures for performance of covered tasks

  1. The inspector should observe the performance of covered tasks during an operations or maintenance activity and determine if procedures prepared by the operator to conduct the task(s) are present in the field and are being used as necessary to perform the task(s).
  2. The inspector should confirm that the procedures being used in the field are the same (content, revision number, and/or date issued) as the latest approved procedures in the operator’s O&M manual.
  3. The inspector should confirm that the procedures employed by contractor individuals performing covered tasks are those approved by the operator for the tasks being performed.
  4. It is important to observe individuals actually performing covered tasks, to ensure that procedure adherence is accomplished and that “work-arounds” are not employed that would invalidate the evaluation and qualification that was performed for the individual in performance of the task.
  5. Procedures list the tools, techniques, and processes employed to accomplish covered tasks. The inspection should determine if all of the tools and special equipment are present at the job site and are properly employed in the performance of the task, and if techniques and special processes are specified, that these are used and followed as described.

3. Abnormal operating conditions

  1. The definition of a qualified individual in the OQ Rule includes the ability to recognize and react to AOCs. Operators differ in the ways AOCs are defined; some define only a set of “generic” AOCs that are applicable to all covered tasks, while others define generic and task-specific AOCs. The evaluation process for AOCs also differs, depending on whether the operator has developed a training module for AOCs, or simply defines AOCs as part of the evaluation process. This area is especially important for contractors, since those individuals who were qualified as part of an operator-recognized consortium such as NCCER, MEA, INGAA, OQSG or others may be qualified to a different set of AOCs than those that are applied to operator employees. Other operators may require that all contractors attend operator-specific AOC training prior to work. The inspection should focus on an individual’s knowledge of the AOCs applicable to the covered task being performed and the ability to recognize those AOCs. The information gained during the inspection should be compared to the requirements for qualification applied during the evaluation process for the subject covered task. If possible, at least one employee individual and at least one contractor individual should be sampled.
  2. As important as recognizing AOCs during the performance of a covered task, is the reaction of the qualified individual to the AOC once it occurs. Depending on the condition, reactions may vary from immediately turning a valve or shutting off an ignition source, to vacating an area and notifying supervisory personnel. Additionally, the required reaction may vary depending on whether the individual is an operator employee or is a contractor. The inspection should focus on the required reactions for all of the AOCs for the covered task being performed, and noting these for comparison to the required reactions in procedures or training modules, if identified. As in a. above, if possible, at least one employee individual and at least one contractor individual should be sampled.

4. Management of change

  1. One of the seven key elements of an OQ program must be the communication of changes that affect covered tasks to those individuals performing covered tasks. Changes may occur in procedures used to perform covered tasks, in equipment or tools used in task performance, or in techniques or special processes that improve pipeline safety. Often these changes are initiated at the headquarters level of the operator; changes may also result from feedback from the field locations where the tasks are actually performed. This inspection topic investigates the knowledge of field supervisors on the way changes are communicated, both to the supervisor from other locations and from the supervisor to other locations. Timeliness of communications should also be investigated to determine if the communication process impedes the timely dissemination of changes to field personnel.
  2. Along with communication of changes to field supervisors, individuals who perform covered tasks should also understand how changes are communicated to them; from the supervisor, directly from the changing authority, etc. If there are contractors performing covered tasks during the field inspection, they should also be sampled concerning changes that affect the tasks they are hired to perform.

5. Evaluation processes

  1. If an operator employed WPHR as a method of qualification of employees performing covered tasks prior to October 27, 1999 (transitional qualification in accordance with the rule), the inspector(s) should examine field records for several randomly selected individuals who were qualified in this manner to ensure that qualification requirements specified by the operator in its OQ program for WPHR were met satisfactorily. If there are contractor individuals performing covered tasks, they should be asked what evaluation method was used for their qualification. If WPHR was used for qualification of any contractor individuals, this should be noted for follow-up with the operator’s OQ program coordinator.
  2. Depending upon the operator’s OQ program, the individual’s supervisor may or may not be involved in the evaluation process for qualification of an individual to perform a covered task. If the program indicates the involvement of the supervisor, the inspector(s) should determine if the supervisor is performing the evaluation requirements specified in the program.

6. Program improvement

  1. -d. This area investigates the communication of OQ program implementation problems and suggested improvements between the headquarters individual or committee established by the operator for OQ program management and the field individuals who actually have to make it work. The most important of these items is associated with the suitability of contractor qualifications, especially the identification and quick resolution of qualification issues.

7. Consistency of implementation of OQ program requirements

  1. This area is applicable only if the inspection is broad enough in scope to cover more than one district of the operator’s company or more than one subsidiary that is covered under an overall OQ program. The inspector should select several covered tasks and review the methods or procedures for performing the tasks to determine if the requirements for task performance are the same. If there are differences, the reason for these differences should be discussed with the operator’s representative.

    In certain cases, the operator’s plan allows for different OQ requirements between segments of its company, especially where a merger or acquisition has recently taken place. If this is the case, then the inspector should determine whether or not an individual from one district or subsidiary is qualified to perform a covered task in a different area of the company without reevaluation.

8. Third-party/internal audits or inspections

  1. If the operator’s OQ program specifies that third-party or internal audits will be performed of field activities, the inspector should ask the operator representative if he/she is aware of the audit process and audit results, and determine if these results identify any problem areas with program implementation.