As many pipeline operators embark on the journey of developing a Pipeline Safety Management System (PSMS), the first question is typically, “Where do we begin?” Management systems can be intimidating, and the thought of taking on the task of developing one can seem overwhelming. Companies want to know if it is necessary to start from scratch, if they can use existing processes or programs, and which step to take first for a successful PSMS. There are many ways to begin, but one of the most effective ways is to first ask two questions, “What do we already have?” and “What are our biggest problems?” Armed with these answers, a path forward can be developed, and the foundation for the management system can begin to take shape.

One effective way to choose where to begin when developing the PSMS is to determine which elements have been related to the root causes of incidents and near misses in the past. Likewise, continuing to determine and monitor the causes of incidents after the implementation of the PSMS will provide guidance for continual improvement of the management system. Using the elements and sub-elements of existing management system standards or practices, such as API RP 1173, Pipeline Safety Management System Requirements [1], as a starting point for determining root causes is a good way to break down, categorize, and trend the causes of each incident. Combining these with a gap analysis of both the undocumented and documented processes and procedures will provide a basis for determining the priorities for development and implementation of each management system element.

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