This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features first-time guest Cheryl Campbell of the Gold Shovel Association discussing damage prevention in the pipeline industry.
In this episode, you will learn about the history and importance of damage prevention and how the Gold Shovel Association has worked to prevent damage, to empower field teams to operate safely, and to protect workers and the public. You will also learn about the complexity of damage prevention and the stakeholders involved.
Damage Prevention: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Cheryl Campbell is the Vice Chair of the Board for Gold Shovel Association. She previously served as the Executive Director of the Gold Shovel Standard (GSS) program within the Gold Shovel Association. Connect with Cheryl on LinkedIn.
- Gold Shovel Standard (GSS) is a nationally-recognized safety program committed to preventing life-threatening damages to buried infrastructure. GSS promotes common and transparent metrics and partnership in all aspects of damage prevention, enabling members to drive continuous improvement.
- PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) ensures the safe transportation of energy and hazardous materials.
- 811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number to ensure that individuals do not hit underground utilities.
- API (American Petroleum Institute) is the only national trade association representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, which supports 10.3 million U.S. jobs and nearly 8 percent of the U.S. economy.
- AGA (American Gas Association) represents companies delivering natural gas safely, reliably, and in an environmentally responsible way to help improve the quality of life for their customers every day.
- CGA (Common Ground Alliance) is an association dedicated to ensuring public safety, environmental protection, and integrity of services by promoting effective practices for preventing damage to underground utilities in North America.
- Pipeline SMS (Pipeline Safety Management Systems) or PSMS is an industry-wide focus to improve pipeline safety, driving toward zero incidents.
- Deming Method is a continuous quality improvement model consisting of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning: Plan, Do, Check (Study), and Act, that is embedded in Pipeline SMS.
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is an agency in the United States Department of Labor. Their mission is to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.”
Damage Prevention: Full Episode Transcript
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 138, sponsored by Energy Worldnet, a worldwide service provider to the oil and gas industry, making the world safer by providing pipeline operators and contractors innovative technology for operator qualification, safety training, content authoring, and guidance as pipelines operate in compliance with PHMSA, OSHA, and other regulatory requirements. To learn more about Energy Worldnet, visit energyworldnet.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time. To show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI Tumbler to one listener each episode. This week, our winner is Barry Foster with National Grid. To learn how you can win this signature prize pack, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week, Cheryl Campbell, Executive Director of the Gold Shovel Association is joining us to talk about damage prevention. Cheryl, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Cheryl Campbell: Thank you, Russel. I am honored to be here today.
Russel: We’re honored to have you. Maybe we can start out, if you would, tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into pipelining, and maybe a little bit about how you found your passion for damage prevention.
Cheryl: You bet. I’ve spent about 35 years in the industry, the first 20 or so with an interstate pipeline and some midstream work. I’ve done a lot, operations and strategic planning, regulatory, all kinds of different things, and the last 13, 14 years of my career with the utility side. I just really enjoy the energy industry, and pipelines in particular. Always been fascinated by it.
The damage prevention stuff is near and dear to my heart, because I’ve seen the results of not handling it correctly, and it’s not good. It’s just something that we can all work together to reduce and not have those negative things happen in our communities.
Russel: You said that 35 years in pipelining. How much of that is in the gas utility, gas distribution space?
Cheryl: Probably 14 or so in the gas distribution space, gas utility space.
Russel: Obviously, I say obviously, maybe not all the listeners know this, but damage prevention is a bigger deal with utilities, because there’s more activity around their assets.
Cheryl: You’re exactly right, Russel. The utilities are up and down your streets in your neighborhood. A lot of people are around the utilities. A lot of people dig around utilities every day. A lot of times, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.
It is, frankly, the number one risk, generally, number one or number two threat to a gas distribution system every year when you review the PHMSA data.
Russel: That’s right. What’s the history of damage prevention as a discipline? How did it originate in our business? Why is it important?
Cheryl: Remarkably enough, it’s not something that’s had a lot of programs around for 70 years or 50 years, like a pipeline code. It’s relatively recent, where we all had 811 programs, working with our states on damage prevention programs, and things of that nature. It’s not as mature as some of the other regulatory programs.
Most of the regulatory programs, they’re not as defined as you might see in the pipeline code around corrosion prevention, for instance. It’s something that a lot of states have managed themselves. It’s time to make it different. It’s time to make it more sophisticated, more mature, and drive those rates down.
We talked about damages before. Frankly, it’s also an inconvenience to our customers, which is a point that is often overlooked. If you hit a gas pipeline, an electric line, a water line, or telecom, you’re negatively impacting the customers on that system until you get it corrected.
You’re also potentially negatively impacting things like roads. People shut roads down when water and gas gets disrupted by damage. Now, people have to find another way home from work, for instance. There’s a lot of downstream impacts that we always tend to forget when we think about damages to underground infrastructure.
Russel: It’s interesting. As you’re sitting here talking about this, I’m realizing I’ve never really thought about it that way. Damage prevention — well, damage from third party excavation, or from any excavation, really — is, if there’s an issue, you’re going to have an unplanned outage.
Planned outages are difficult enough, but unplanned outages are really difficult.
Cheryl: Yes, and your unplanned outage may be across more utilities than just yours, depending on how the damage occurred and what’s happening as the damage is moving forward. I’ve seen major thoroughfares shut down, street lights turned off, you name it.
People evacuated from houses, if you’ve got gas and sewer systems, and you’re concerned about the gas getting inside of homes. You can impact a much broader area than just that street corner where the event occurred.
Russel: I guess it’s really interesting, because typically, I tend to think of these things in terms of the emergency response and the immediate consequences. When you start thinking about it in the context you’re talking about, about the number of people that can be inconvenienced…
As we sit here recording this, it’s July in Houston, Texas. If the power goes out, I’m leaving the house. [laughs]
Cheryl: That’s right.
Russel: I’m not being in the house without air conditioning. You know what I’m saying?
Cheryl: That’s exactly right. I’ve seen ones that have done that, shut down the power in a downtown area, major metropolitan, downtown area. Now, you’ve got people streaming out of office buildings. You’ve got streets blocked off, so you have a traffic mess.
Just extend that out, and it becomes, what started as a relatively simple thing, hitting that utility or whatever, just became something that might have impacted thousands of people. We really don’t think about it that way, but that’s exactly what can happen.
Russel: It’s interesting. In the last several podcasts I’ve recorded, my history in the military always is coming back to me. I remember, my first assignment in the military was at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, where they had a large, they would basically remanufacture aircraft.
They take aircraft in and take them all apart, replace all the metal that was fatigued, and put them all back together. While I was the facilities support officer for the manufacturing facility with about 12,000 in it, there was a gas leak, and they had to evacuate that.
Some of the projects that were going on in that facility were being reported weekly to the president. [laughs]
Cheryl: Yeah. That’s incredible, right?
Russel: I never connected those dots before this conversation.
Cheryl: It’s really amazing when you start thinking about it. I think what’s interesting is when its people, utilities normally send a bill. Gas utilities in particular, but I think in general, they will normally send a bill to whoever did the damage, the at-fault party that did the damage.
I don’t think that what is included in that bill is anything more than the repair costs, the labor, and the equipment for that utility. If you think about, if you were to start adding up all those other impacts, I’ve got to believe it would stop pretty quickly [laughs] if you got a bill for that kind of money.
Russel: Yeah. Yes, yeah.
Russel: I think what we’ve done here is we’ve underscored the importance of a damage prevention program quite well, and in a way, I have never contemplated before, so that’s awesome. Are there industry standards in place, like any API standards or AGA standards for damage prevention that are used for the operators and their programs?
Cheryl: That’s a great question. There are outlines and things that people call industry standards, but I would argue that they are not, given that we can’t seem to drive it down. And, in fact, I think the latest CGA data actually showed that our damages across the country are going up.
I would argue that what standards that are there are insufficient and are not driving that cycle of continuous improvement, not driving us in the direction that we should be going.
Russel: I think one of the challenges with damage prevention, in general, is you’re talking about everybody who has a shovel or a backhoe. That’s a lot of folks. It’s a lot of folks. These programs tend to be, in terms of the rules and regulations and the penalties for not following, that’s all handled by the local authority.
Whether that’s the city, the state, and sometimes, it can even be different, but depending on how the utilities are provided.
Russel: There’s not a lot of commonality across even a relatively small geography, in some cases.
Cheryl: That’s exactly right. Homeowners do some number of damages. If you or I go out to plant a shrub or to do some work in our yards…
Russel: Not you and I, Cheryl.
Cheryl: Not you and I, because I know better, and I know you do, too. To call 811 and to be careful, right?
Russel: My neighbor. My neighbor might do that.
Cheryl: Yeah, your neighbor might.
Cheryl: The kinds of things we were just talking about that impact a downtown area are generally done by a third party doing work either for the utility or for another utility in the area to do whatever.
Maybe do some work on the water line, a sewer line, or installing some telecom fiber, or electric or gas. Those are the ones that can impact those very, very broad areas.
Russel: Yeah, exactly.
Cheryl: You or I digging in our yard, we usually impact our immediate house, and maybe a few neighbors, but it’s rare to see those be the widespread impact that we talked about earlier.
Russel: Right, the significant impacts, exactly. One of the other things I wanted you to talk about was the Gold Shovel Association. I know that that’s something that you have a great deal of passion for and have invested a significant part of your career. Tell us about Gold Shovel. What is it, and how was it founded?
Cheryl: Absolutely. Probably five or six years ago, people started talking about, “There must be a better way,” on this damage prevention. What we didn’t want was more regulations. It’s easy to say, “Well, they have to write more regulations, and then everybody will follow the rules.”
You and I could talk all day about whether or not that’s true, but regardless, can we find a way to use a market-based solution to improve damage prevention, instead of just waiting for the regulators to write more rules that may or not be the right rules to drive the right behavior change?
Gold Shovel was actually started out of a program in California. It is a nonprofit. It is now standalone from the company that it was started from. It works with utilities in the industry to…It’s actually a metric-based program.
It requires a couple of things. One is you have to have a damage prevention program that is consistent with what you or I would think of as pipeline safety management systems. The Plan Do Check Act cycle. Do you have a program that goes beyond call 811?
I’ve seen a lot of people’s damage prevention programs that that’s what they say, Russel, is, “Call 811.” I think most people would agree that that’s really not sufficient for a process or a program of this nature.
You’ve got to be able to have a plan. You’ve got to execute. If you have a failure, you need to investigate and develop a root cause, and then make some changes to improve your processes going forward.
Russel: You also have to have some metrics around performance, I would think, too.
Cheryl: Correct. That’s the second key piece to the Gold Shovel story, is developing metrics that are consistent, that we can measure improvement across. Gold Shovel didn’t just make these metrics up. They actually got with key parties, and they started with the excavation community.
They built some excavation metrics that can be tracked for both internal crews, commonly referred to as first and second-party contractors, and then third parties, so somebody not affiliated with your company digging in the area.
Those metrics, they’re very consistently measured across everybody that’s participating. They’re not meant to say, “You’re a bad excavator.” They’re actually meant to say, you start with a baseline, just like every other metric.
OSHA’s the best example. Maybe you start with an OSHA rate of four, which I think we would all agree is a bad OSHA rate. You work on trying to reduce it. You set a target and a timeline, and you work on improving that OSHA rate to something more acceptable.
Maybe your first step is three or three and a half, but you’re trying to move forward. These metrics are the same way. They are working on a second set. Gold Shovel is working on a second set of metrics for the pre-excavation piece.
I know we can talk in a minute about all the different stakeholders, but there’s many parts to this. The excavators are only one part of the story, and they’re close to finalizing some additional metrics for the pre-excavation side of the story. “What does good look like?” is the way I talk about it.
Russel: Again, I think that’s really interesting, because if you think about what damage prevention really involves, it’s first, someone has to say, “We’re going to dig here,” and make a request for a locating effort. Then the locators need to properly locate and mark. Then the excavators need to safely dig.
Cheryl: I will add one more piece to that, that asset owners in that area need records that people can count on, and to provide those records to the 811 program so that the locators…
Russel: I’m not going to go there, but it reminds me of another experience I had when I was in the military where I was trying to turn off a major water line leak, again, feeding this dad gum production facility.
It was excavation damage and all this stuff, but the bottom line is what we had as drawings had no bearing in reality. We had to call somebody in who was off and have them drive out to go find the valve and shut the water off.
Cheryl: Because they knew where it was.
Russel: Exactly, but the drawings did not. [laughs]
Cheryl: Yes. [laughs] That’s an important part of the process as well. People need to be working on their records. You have to make the right connections in that request, in that plan. The locators need to do the right job, a good job locating.
It might be a tricky locate, so it might take a little extra care or a little extra time than just a standard locate. Then finally, the excavator needs to follow best practices to do a good excavation. You have lots of things that have to come into play and come together for a successful and safe excavation.
Russel: Oftentimes, it’s multiple different parties that are doing all that.
Russel: I could see where, in some excavations, particularly in a city center, there might be a dozen or two dozen different entities involved in that whole process.
Cheryl: There very well could be. Telecom, water, sewer, electric, gas, who knows what else is under those streets [laughs] in some of these older cities.
Russel: You’re going to have the city pavement people. You’re going to have various inspectors. You might have, in telecom, in a city center, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have a half a dozen different telecom providers.
Russel: The numbers get pretty big pretty quick.
Cheryl: Right, and trying to get all that coordinated, and everybody following best practices…Now, I’m going to back up for a minute, because we talked about standards. One of the good collaborators in this process of Common Ground Alliance — I need to give a shout out to them.
Because that’s one of the things that they work hard on, is getting people together to say, “What is…” If it’s a hard locate, a difficult locate, or what are the right ways to do these things to solve some of these problems? They’re working hard on those types of issues in this space.
Russel: Let’s talk a little bit about who all the stakeholders are. I think we’ve been elaborating a little bit about that, but who are all the stakeholders? You’ve mentioned all the utility providers. Who are some of the others?
Cheryl: There are a lot of people involved in the process, from the asset owners — we call them utility or asset owners — the local communities, the people that take care of the streets, your locate providers, who might be everything from a small company, local company, to a nationwide company.
Frankly, your utility providers can be the same thing. They could be everything from a local water or sewer company to a much bigger regional player involved. Telecom, as you mentioned before, we could have a half a dozen different telecom companies in the area. You can end up with 10, 12 people, easy, or companies, easy, involved in the process.
Russel: I think the other thing, too, and I really mean this as a question, is what about those that could be impacted if something went wrong with the excavations?
Cheryl: That gets much broader, because depending on what kind of a hit it was, it could be…We talked about the inconvenience earlier. You call out the sewer company, the water company, the electric company, the telecom company, or the gas company, or if you have a blowing gas situation, you could have the local fire department there, and you’re evacuating buildings.
Now, you have police onsite. You might have the local government emergency management officers, if, heaven forbid, you had an explosion, for instance. It can grow on you very quickly with a lot of different local and regional governmental agencies, as well as all of these companies.
Russel: I guess the story here is, [laughs] like a lot of other things, this can get real complex the minute you begin understanding the totality of the problem.
Russel: How do you address all those different stakeholders and their different interests?
Cheryl: That’s a challenge, because they’re all coming at it from a different point of view. We all want it to be safe, and we don’t want any damage done. We are also all pushing our crews for productivity and don’t take hours and hours to do a locate or an excavation that should take a much shorter period of time.
It’s an interesting balancing act, and I think what you find sometimes when damages do happen, sometimes people have taken shortcuts. Sometimes, people don’t hand dig within the marks, for instance.
For people familiar with the process, you’re supposed to hand dig within 18 inches of the mark on either side and all the way around. Sometimes, people don’t. I’ve seen mechanical digging inside that 18-inch barrier.
There’s just so many ways that this can go down a bad path. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is we all talk, we all collaborate, and we all find ways to move forward. It does mean that there’s no one party in this process, Russel, that gets everything their way.
It’s not one of those things where the gas utilities get to dictate the way it works, or the telecoms get to dictate the way it works, or choose your party. It really has to be a collaborative effort, because we have many stakeholders involved in this.
The impact can be everything from very localized, like we talked about, to a much broader impact.
Russel: How does Gold Shovel work to support all of the various stakeholders and their interests? How does that work with Gold Shovel?
Cheryl: That’s a great question. The way that we work towards that is, while we’re…Let’s start with, remember, I talked about having a damage prevention program in place. We work with the member company to build that program.
We educate. We provide them resources to help them with that, understand what needs to be done, give them examples, things of that nature. Then when it comes to the metrics, we are using industry people to develop those metrics. Again, it’s a collaborative effort.
Then we’re constantly working with the member companies to, “Okay, let’s report out this. This doesn’t make sense to us. Can we help you with that investigation? “Hey, this is what the data tells us right now, the direction you’re headed in,” or, “How can we provide some more education to different parties?”
To us, it’s about being that…We’re not saying, “This party’s bad,” or, “That party’s bad.” We’re saying, “Here’s the data, and we’re going to help you interpret it. You have to decide.” Each asset owner and member company has to decide how they deal with that data.
We’re here to help and here to collaborate, and try to make sure that what good looks like, it’s not just one party’s opinion or one of the stakeholder’s opinion. You’re trying to balance all of those different pressures.
Now, I will say, too, that — you remember I said it was five or six years ago that we started talking about it? — this is going to evolve over time. Where we start, this is no different than OSHA. I keep using OSHA, because the injury rates in the industry were not good 10, or 15, or 20 years ago.
When we all started talking about it, putting it out there, looking at it, and reporting on it more transparently, it started coming down. If you look at the OSHA rates in the industry over the last 10 or 20 years, they’ve come down quite a bit. Same thing here.
Russel: I think the fact that OSHA standardized the metrics allowed people to do comparisons across different industries, and then allowed people who might not be familiar with industries to look at — like insurance carriers and such — those metrics and say, “You’re doing well,” or not, “You have risk,” or not. That helps provide input to a whole lot of other decision-making.
Cheryl: It’s exactly the same thing here. We’re trying to get that standard metric. It might not be perfect, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the excavation metrics are perfect. A lot of people said, “Well, it should be this.”
Okay, well, right now, we can’t even do this. Let’s start here, and maybe in 5, 8, or 10 years, the group that’s running it then says, “We should change this metric from where we started to,” basically raise the bar. You’re changing the bar over time.
Russel: If you have a whole industry that everybody knows the numbers, and they understand how the numbers come together, you can argue about whether those numbers are right or not, but at least everybody has a number and a basis for comparison.
Russel: That facilitates a meaningful conversation that can move the process forward, versus we all have our own independent thoughts on the matter.
Cheryl: You’re exactly right.
Russel: It’s just a different conversation, and it’s a more effective conversation as a whole.
Cheryl: We all know that about the OSHA rates, too. Everybody’s got their problems with OSHA, but at least we know they’re consistent.
Russel: Exactly. Cheryl, what have you learned in your experience around damage prevention that you wish that everybody knew?
Cheryl: That’s a great question, Russel. I think the first thing that I’d like to mention is that, whatever you believe is happening out there in the field that your employees are doing, it’s likely not what’s really going on.
They’ve got their way of doing things. They understand your standards manual and your processes, but things get a lot more complicated out there. They are doing things other than what you think they are while they’re trying to complete their work in a timely fashion.
Russel: I think you could probably do a whole podcast just on that subject alone and how that actually works. People don’t do that really with intent, necessarily. It just naturally happens over time. It comes out of familiarity of doing the work.
Cheryl: Absolutely agree. You do one small thing differently because of whatever the situation is presenting itself. The next time that you get into the same situation, you think, “Well, nothing bad happened last time,” so maybe you just push it a little bit further.
Over time, it drifts from what your intention was and what the right standard was for your company.
Russel: Yeah, exactly. I think once you have some experience, particularly if you have some experience with things not going the way you wanted them to, you start to learn to trust your gut. Sometimes, your gut will tell you something’s not right, even when your mind doesn’t know what that is.
I think one of the responsibilities we have as pipeliners is, when that happens, we need to pause and say, “Hey, something doesn’t seem right about this to me. What am I missing here?”
Cheryl: That is so true. Along the same lines, if something’s changed and disrupted your process, you need to stop and rethink, and not just try to push through. Maybe do a pause, a pause in the workstream, and make sure everybody’s still on the same page.
You’re exactly right. Trust your instincts, pause there, and say, “Wait a minute. Have we still got our arms around this, and are we wandering down the right path?” Otherwise, you could end up in a really bad place.
Russel: That’s exactly right, and much better that you think through, take a little time and think something through than have to spend your time responding to something that went sideways on you.
Cheryl: Yes, the sideways will always take longer.
Cheryl: There is no doubt about that.
Russel: See, right there, that’s what you wish everybody knew. Sideways takes longer than pausing and going forward.
Cheryl: Right. Along those same lines, we wish everybody would remember or know, is that in the aftermath of an event, you are always judged by a different set of standards, right?
Russel: Right, no doubt.
Cheryl: I think that’s very important for people to remember. You think you’ve got it. You think your records are okay.
You think your process was okay, but you really need to think about it in the context of, if something bad happened, if we had a serious employee safety event, or a fatality, or a public safety event, how would an outside party who is not familiar with the industry view this event and view the decisions that we made?
I think it’s important for people to remember that and think about it that way.
Russel: That’s right. Particularly those of us working in the utility space, we really operate in a public trust.
Cheryl: Yes, we do. We’re right next to people’s houses and their workplaces. They depend on us to make sure that they have power and energy every day, they have warm showers. You can just go right down the list what energy does for our lifestyle and the way we all operate. They’re also depending on us to keep it safe.
Russel: Exactly. Cheryl, what do you think the future is? What’s coming, or what things are happening in the industry, and where do you think we’re headed over the next few years as it relates to damage prevention?
Cheryl: I’ve seen so much during this pandemic, a lot in the technology space. I will readily admit that utilities and others in the space have been, let’s call it, slow to adopt technology. What I’m starting to see is more technology being used to solve some of these problems.
We think we’re high tech, because we’ve got these pieces of equipment that help us locate the facilities, and we have tablets in the field, and things like that. The reality is we are still struggling with ensuring that we know where our assets are, our records are up to date, we’ve made it easy for our people to update our records and keep everything consistent.
What I’m starting to see is more of a technology wave in the industry. Frankly, we need it. We’ve been reluctant to adopt some of this stuff, for very good reasons. I totally understand the reasons, but I’m hoping this pandemic and the way we’re working will help us push down that path faster.
Russel: I think that’s really, really a big deal. I’ve seen this for…Of course, I work in technology, and I’m familiar with what the possibilities are and what the resistance is. I think our industry — in general, I’m talking about just pipelining globally, if you will — we’re really good about high tech around the metal.
We’re not nearly as good about high-tech around the management systems.
Cheryl: I think that’s true.
Russel: It’s management systems, systems that allow the people who are overseeing things to quickly understand what the core issues are and systems that do what I would call natural compliance, meaning that people just do their work, and the record-keeping just happens.
By doing their work, the records get better. That’s easy to say, but that’s way hard to do, because it’s a radical rethink of how we approach the actual work we do.
Cheryl: I totally agree, Russel. If you think about it, we hire people who want to fix things or build things. We don’t hire people who like to do accounting and record keeping. [laughs]
Russel: That’s right. We like to play with the metal. We’re not folks that want to push paper around.
Cheryl: That’s exactly right, and so we’re pushing a rock uphill trying to get people to do the paperwork. We need to make it easy for people to be in compliance or to record the information that we want, so that we can run our risk systems, our integrity systems, or whatever we’ve got going on behind the scenes.
Make it straightforward to stay in compliance for people, and to report out our compliance, as opposed to having it be a burden on the company and the regulators to do this.
Russel: Oh, yeah, and it gets broader than just a compliance issue. It’s really what I would call an operations effectiveness issue.
Russel: Compliance is certainly a piece of that, but it’s all things that we’re doing to operate and be safe in the operation. One of the things I’m learning about doing this podcast, Cheryl, is that is a very, very deep, big, broad issue.
Cheryl: It is.
Russel: It’s virtually impossible to even have a good general understanding of all the things we do in pipeline, and much less any kind of detailed understanding. It’s a big domain.
Cheryl: It is. We actually tried to list all out one time early in my career at the utility I worked for. It was a daunting list. I will say this, and I think you’ll agree, compliance isn’t the target. It’s a floor.
It’s the minimum, and we’ve got to be able to do more. It doesn’t matter if it’s damage prevention or pipelines. I think if we can simplify a lot of this stuff, it’ll be a lot easier for companies to see the path beyond just basic compliance. That is a path that leads to more safety.
Russel: Yeah, I agree with everything you’re saying, with one exception. I think it’s impossible to simplify the work, but I think what we can do is come up with systems that bury the complexity.
Cheryl: Yes, that’s a good way to say it.
Russel: That’s different, right?
Cheryl: Yep, that’s a good way to say it.
Russel: You still have to have all that complexity. You still need to do all that analysis. You’ve just got to make the doing of it straightforward.
Cheryl: We do need to make it simpler. I remember early in my career at Interstate where we had to go to a school for a week to learn how to run the dynamic pipeline model that did our planning to estimate, that modeled the pressure waves moving through the pipeline.
It took a week of school to do that, to learn how to input it into the system and then read it when you got the output. It took a long time to run those models. Today, that same type of planning model can be done just on a computer screen without that level of…
You still have to learn and understand what you’re doing, but you don’t have to do it just so, with everything in the right column, and then have to go to school for a week to read the output and understand what it was saying to you.
Technology’s come a long way, and we just have to keep pushing it forward to make it easier for people to do…I’ll call that the nuts and bolts, because what we really want to know is how can we make it safer?
Where are the corrosion problems? Where do I have a risk for damage prevention? Those are the things we really want to know and focus our employees and our resources on.
Russel: Absolutely. Cheryl, look, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. I really appreciate you joining us. We’re going to have to get you back and unpack some of these other things that we noodled on a bit in this conversation.
Cheryl: I’d be happy to do that. I really enjoyed it, Russel. I really appreciate you having me today to talk about damage prevention. It’s pretty important for everybody.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Cheryl Campbell. Just a reminder before you go. You should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit pipelinerspodcast.com/win to enter yourself in the drawing.
Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in hearing, please let me know on the Contact Us page at pipelinerspodcast.com, or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords