Standards and regulations are clear: all staff who work on pipelines need to be both “competent” and “qualified.” Standards such as API 1173 are clear about competence within a safety management system: “The pipeline operator shall ensure that personnel whose responsibilities fall within the scope of the PSMS [Pipeline Safety Management System] have an appropriate level of competence in terms of education, training, knowledge, and experience.” The burden of defining and specifying competence falls on pipeline operators, but they have little guidance regarding the required skills, knowledge and levels of competency. Additionally, we are all biased — different operators will have different ideas and emphases on competencies, which will affect their decision-making. The only way to avoid these cognitive biases is to use consensus standards supported by rigorous surveys that capture the required competencies.

This paper explores some of the more common biases that can affect decisions and presents the results of a controlled, independent, survey aimed at both specifying and quantifying the necessary competencies needed by a specific engineer working within a PSMS: a pipeline integrity engineer. The paper identifies and ranks these necessary competences.

The survey was completed by 100 pipeline integrity engineers from 25 different countries. Its specific objective was to investigate the key skills and knowledge requirements needed in a junior engineering position (i.e., a pipeline engineer with less than three years of relevant experience) working under supervision to be ‘competent’. It listed eight core competencies (identified by subject matter experts) considered essential for a pipeline integrity engineer. Each of these core competencies contained a set of skills. Respondents were first asked to rank the eight core competences, and then rank the skills within the competency.

An analysis of the data provides insights into how 100 pipeline integrity engineers view the key skills required to be “competent.”

The results of the survey can assist pipeline companies in setting objective competency requirements for their engineering personnel, developing learning programs to address any gaps, and improve the overall safety of their pipeline system.

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