INGAA, APCA, OSHA Ramp Up Pipeline Construction Safety Measures

The INGAA Foundation Inc. has released Construction Safety Consensus Guidelines designed to cover common natural gas construction operations such as basic personal protection equipment (PPE), pressure testing, overhead utilities safety and trenching and excavation.

A key guideline is hazard assessment, which refers to assessing hazardous situations for each new task, at the beginning of each new shift, or as needed. Responsibilities for management and employees are also highlighted. Management would be responsible for verifying that employees are trained and know how to utilize PPE, and to stop and correct any non-compliant activities. Employees are responsible for obeying safety procedures, completing applicable training, implementing PPE standards, and reporting any PPE hazards.

Basic PPE is outlined in the document, which includes head protection, eye protection, safety footwear, hand protection and appropriate work clothing. Because PPE is activity-based, there are times when employees are advised to wear chemical and splash protection, drowning protection, fire resistant clothing, hearing protection, respiratory protection and welding protection. These circumstances are covered under situational or specialized PPE in the guidelines.

These safety rules are supported by the America Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) and the INGAA Foundation membership, and aim to strengthen applicable regulatory standards and employ consistency across the industry.

APCA is an industry leader in promoting safety and supporting regulatory agencies that supervise construction. APCA made an alliance in 2007 with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to protect pipeline construction employees through a safe workplace. The two organizations renewed their alliance in February 2009 and again in January 2012.

“This agreement will provide members of the APCA, including small businesses, with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help them protect employees’ health and safety,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin Foulke Jr. “The Alliance will particularly focus on reducing and preventing exposure to hazards from bulldozer, excavator, pipelayer and other heavy equipment operation, as well as trenching, excavation and hydrostatic testing hazards.”

An implementation team was created with representatives from both organizations who form a plan of action, working procedures and delegate roles and responsibilities among its members. The group meets at least three times a year to track the Alliance’s progress.

The Alliance is committed to developing training and education programs for the pipeline industry, focusing on equipment operation, trenching and excavation, and hydrostatic testing hazards. The Alliance offers these programs in English and Spanish.

OSHA and APCA communicate to the pipeline construction workforce about safety and prevention through forums, digital media, social media, websites, electronic assistance tools and print. The Alliance also speaks at OSHA and APCA meetings.

The Alliance promotes programs such as the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), the Onsite Consultation Program and the Safety and the Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

The VPP works with OSHA, management and labor to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses by targeting hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training and management commitment and worker involvement. To attain VPP status, an employer must submit an application and go through a strict onsite safety and health assessment. If an employer passes the evaluation, they are re-evaluated every three to 5 years to keep their membership.

OSHA’s Onsite Consultation Program works with employers to implement health and safety standards. The service helps employers recognize potential dangers in the workplace and offers preventative measures. According to OSHA, in 2011 the program made 30,000 visits to worksites and enhanced safety for over 1.5 million construction workers.

SHARP awards small business employers that execute a meritorious injury and illness prevention program by making them a role model for their peers. If an employer earns SHARP approval, they opt out of OSHA’s worksite evaluations during the duration of their SHARP certification.

The OSHA and APCA Alliance also generated safety fact sheets for the pipeline construction industry in March 2008 on APCA’s website,, entitled: Backhoe Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel and Operators; Dozer Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel and Operators; Excavation and Trenching Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel and Operators; Excavator Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel, Operators, and Workers; Horizontal Directional Drilling Best Practices for Operators; Horizontal Directional Drilling Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel; Pressure Testing Best Practices for Personnel Conducting the Test Fact; Pressure Testing Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel; and Sideboom Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel, Operators, and Workers.

Both INGAA and the Alliance have made strides in implementing safe practices in the pipeline construction sector. The organizations have set standards for the pipeline industry that have benefitted both the health and safety of employers and workers.

An OSHA press release stated that, “OSHA’s alliances provide parties an opportunity to participate in a voluntary cooperative relationship with OSHA for purposes such as training, education, outreach, communication and promoting a national dialogue on workplace safety and health.”

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