Updated API Standard for Pipeline Public Awareness Programs Enhances Public Safety

On August 11, 2022, “National Call Before You Dig” day, the American Petroleum Institute (API) released an updated standard for pipeline public awareness programs, which helps protect buried utilities, local communities, and the people who live and work near pipeline rights of way.

Recommended Practice (RP) 1162, Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators, 3rd Edition, establishes minimum requirements and offers updated guidance for operators of pipeline and storage systems that are required by federal or state pipeline safety laws to implement public awareness programs.

The way people communicate and want to receive information has changed significantly since the 1st Edition of RP 1162 was published in 2003 and incorporated by reference into regulation by the Pipeline an

d Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) in 2005. Most people today seek information using social media channels or digital platforms, such as company websites and search engines, and approximately 80 % of the U.S. population uses text messaging to send and receive information. However, RP 1162 (and current regulation) excludes those channels as methods of providing pipeline safety information to stakeholders because they weren’t available at publication in 2003.

Other drivers for the revision included a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, including a review of inspection learnings, led by PHMSA, and a subsequent review of those SWOT analysis findings by an industry team focused on identifying key themes for an eventual revision of RP 1162.

In addition to building on more than 15 years of learnings from the implementation of public awareness programs, as well as learnings from reviews of similar programs in peer industries, the newly revised 3rd Edition:

• Allows flexibility for both existing social and digital platforms and emerging technologies.

• Introduces new language to address certain operational changes that may require additional communication based on the introduction of new hazards or a change in emergency contact information.

• Clarifies terms—such as “liaison”—that had not been consistently defined in the 1st Edition.

• Updates the frequency of communication with key stakeholders.

• Provides guidance on when operators may benefit from participating with other pipeline operators in collaborative programs while still meeting their program objectives.

One key difference between RP 1162 and other non-technical standards has been a requirement to measure program effectiveness and revise programs as indicated by that evaluation. Behavior change, a key evaluation element in the 1st Edition, has been replaced in the 3rd Edition with a requirement to measure behavioral intent (or a percent of stakeholders who state they intend to behave in alignment with guidance or messaging provided). This change is intended to help operators better understand their stakeholders’ knowledge of pipelines and pipeline safety and to enable more effective interactions between operators and their stakeholders.

The 3rd Edition is also organized around a Plan-Do- Check-Act (PDCA) framework, or implementation cycle, for public awareness programs. The PDCA cycle—a four-step iterative process for continuous assessment and improvement—was introduced in RP 1173, Pipeline Safety Management Systems.

The task group, which began work on the 3rd Edition in 2017, comprises pipeline operators, associations for emergency responders, school and agriculture extensions, industry consultants and public awareness vendors, industry trade associations, and state and federal pipeline safety regulators. Additionally, the task group sought external expertise on leading practices in risk communication, measurement of communication and outreach programs (including a review of measurement practices of those programs in peer industries), and public participation in infrastructure projects.

For more information on RP 1162, 3rd Edition, please visit www.api.org.

Special Note: Join Sam Minifie, API, at the Global Excavation Safety Conference in Tampa to learn more about RP 1162 Updates.

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