April 2018, Vol.245, No.4


Control Room Team Training – Creating a Culture of Pipeline Safety

By Alicia Gibson, Pipeline Performance Group, LLC and Scarlet Knight, Pipeline Performance Group

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) Control Room Management regulations were amended in a final rule on Jan. 23, 2017, to add this ‘control room team training’ requirement to CFR 192.631(h)(6) and CFR 195.446 (h)(6): 

Control room team training and exercises that include both controllers and other individuals, defined by the operator, who would reasonably be expected to operationally collaborate with controllers (control room personnel) during normal, abnormal or emergency situations.  

A photo of a pipeline control room
A photo of a pipeline control room

Companies must comply with the team training requirements by these dates: 

  • Jan. 23, 2018 – Establish team training program objectives and content 
  • Jan. 23, 2019 – Conduct training for those identified as necessary participants

These dates, along with additional details, are described in the guidance PHMSA provided in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) published earlier this year.  Companies must determine which personnel should be included in the team training with the controllers based on their likely interaction with controllers during normal, abnormal and emergency conditions.  PHMSA Advisory Bulletin 2014-02 and NTSB PAR-12/01, both of which address the Enbridge Marshall, Michigan incident are useful references for companies as they seek to identify which of their personnel should participate in the team training sessions.   

Companies must also determine the content for the team training which should include important skills such as teamwork, communication, situation awareness, decision-making, leadership, professionalism, understanding roles and responsibilities (including how company leadership and executive management are involved in operational decisions), recognition of and appropriate responses to emergencies, resolution of data discrepancies, error diagnostics, error management, relevant procedures, and problem solving.  Easy to accomplish, right?

The solution may become easier to see when you consider the intent of Control Room Team Training:  to encourage technically competent individuals to function as members of teams, to learn to take action and to behave in ways that foster control room team effectiveness, as well as to train on effective team behaviors during routine operations and abnormal and emergency situations.  Many other industries including aviation, railroad, maritime, and military organizations have incorporated team training in their programs for years, often referred to as Crew Resource Management training.  

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) initially recommended team training to improve teamwork and leadership in an effort to reduce accidents. Crew Resource Management became necessary in the aviation industry when it was discovered that most aviation accidents were a result of human error rather than mechanical failure. When humans cooperate and collaborate as effective teams, it is proven that fewer errors and accidents occur. 

So what does this mean for the pipeline industry? How do Control Rooms address this new requirement? Do annual tabletop emergency response drills address the requirement?  

Controllers need to know how to follow procedures, how to operate safely and who to call when an abnormal or emergency condition arises.  Control Room Team Training is intended to go beyond those procedural and technical foundations and help build an effective cross functional team environment.  The training is intended to help avoid the problems created when other individuals exceed the scope of their roles and responsibilities to persuade a controller toward actions that are contrary to those the controller believes to be appropriate based on their knowledge, training and experience.  One such widely known incident occurred at Enbridge. This incident was, in part, the basis for introducing the same type of team training into the pipeline industry that has been used for years in other transportation industries. 

Given the number of questions we have been asked about team training from control room representatives across North America, we, at Pipeline Performance Group, LLC (PPG) realized we could provide some guidance for the industry on how to address this requirement for team training on non-technical skills based on the combination of:

  • our knowledge of Human Factors
  • our operations experience in the field and in control rooms
  • our experience working in oil, gas, chemical and electric control rooms around the world
  • our desire to assist controllers with their goals to operate safely and effectively

Our Team Resource Management (TRM) course is based on the need for team training in pipeline companies, the amendment to the CRM regulation, the NTSB recommendation, the PHMSA advisory bulletin, the newly published FAQs, and our knowledge of team training practices and human factors principles in other transportation modes and the oil and gas industry. The TRM course content is based on Crew Resource Management principles in other transportation modes. The basic principles covered in the TRM course include:  

  • Situation Awareness
  • Communication, including Assertiveness
  • Teamwork
  • Decision Making
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Safety Culture

The course includes lessons from NTSB and PHMSA accident reports and is customized using company incident information.  It also incorporates a combination of learning activities including presentations, printed materials, stories, videos, exercises, assessments, and role-plays. 

Because fatigue, stress management, and workload all contribute to the effectiveness of human performance and teamwork, these topics are covered in separate Control Room Management regulatory requirements, which PPG also helps companies address through other training and consulting services. P&GJ  


Alicia Gibson, a principal of Pipeline Performance Group, LLC, is a results-oriented executive experienced in strategy, operations, process improvement and leadership. Prior to becoming a consultant, she successfully served in several operations and business capacities at Colonial Pipeline Company.  Alicia has provided operations and human factors consulting services to clients around the globe.

Scarlet Knight is a health and fitness consultant, providing nutrition, exercise, and health strategies to address fatigue management for Pipeline Performance Group, LLC clients.  She is the owner of and principal trainer for Kaizen Fitness in Kennesaw, Georgia. She has twelve years of experience and certifications from the American Council on Exercise in fitness training and the International Sports Science Association in fitness nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

Related Articles


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}