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Pipeline worksites require specialized training

Pipeline construction has its own set of challenges when it comes to safety that are being addressed in a new targeted training program

Caterpillar Safety Services went onsite with pipeline partner companies to conduct interviews and film scenarios that would provide familiar scenes to employees.
Caterpillar Safety Services went onsite with pipeline partner companies to conduct interviews and film scenarios that would provide familiar scenes to employees.

Anyone who has worked on a pipeline construction site knows that it is an operation with many unique aspects when compared to most other worksites. A constantly moving process, pipe laying involves machinery, welding and many more components not found in other types of construction, and brings along a wider range of safety challenges.

While there are plenty of training programs available to help ensure the safety of employees on construction sites, pipeline operations have been less well served on the training side. Thanks to the efforts of one equipment manufacturer and numerous pipeline owners and contractors, an effort is being made to close that gap.

Considering the close relationship between one of the world’s top manufacturers of heavy construction machinery and the pipelining industry, it only makes sense that it was a need identified by members of Caterpillar’s Safety Services team that started the ball rolling.

Unprecedented collaboration

But it wasn’t just that organization, noted Jodi Martel, project manager with Cat Safety Services; in fact, it was a nearly unprecedented collaboration between many stakeholders.

“One of our account managers in the pipeline industry sector knew a lot of folks there; we’d done some work with these companies already with some of our tools, and they expressed a need for some help in that area,” she explained. “We offer tools that can be very customized, and we’re able to build training programs to help.”

Representatives from Cat Safety Services touched base with a number of contacts in the pipeline industry, both owners and contractors, and presented a framework of an idea for a training program.

“It started with a framework of what we identified as being necessary, and that was something we brought to the table in that we know how crucial communication skills are, how understanding accountability can be put into play, and how to build an understanding of safety culture,” Martel said. “We communicated to our partners that we thought those three items were critical, and they added on hazard recognition and risk tolerance.”

Gathering those partners was a unique step for Cat Safety Services as well, Martel noted.

“We approached a number of pipeline construction companies and owners with the idea of giving them this very customized training that would meet their specific needs. They sat down over the course of about a year and a half to determine where we could all partner together.”

In the course of the program’s development, Cat and its dealer PipeLine Machinery International drew together a collection of companies including PLH Group, TransCanada Pipelines, Spectra Energy Transmission, Welded Construction, Sheehan Pipeline Construction, Rockford Corporation, Strike, LLC, Quanta Services, US Pipeline and Enbridge Employee Services Canada. Each chipped in to help develop the vision of the program and provide production costs.

That in itself was innovative – considering that the companies involved often compete in the pipeline construction market. The difference in this case stemmed from a combined need for something different and focused from a training perspective.

“They saw a mutual benefit to coming together and developing training that all the companies could benefit from because of their workforce,” Martel said. “A lot of employees cross back and forth between these companies, so this kind of training program can potentially set a standard in the industry. It was kind of the first time that they had come together, put up some funding, and worked as a development team with Caterpillar.”

Program fills gaps in training

From the perspective of the partner companies, the program is certainly filling an important gap. “

Caterpillar approached us to determine if we would have any interest in the program … around 2012 or 2013, when there was just a concept,” related Kevin Parker, vice president of safety, training and environment with Mears Group, an asset management and construction firm in the Quanta Services group. “We were working with Caterpillar on rolling out a safety culture perception survey and felt this type of training would fit in great with our safety objectives.”

Parker said his employees were eager to have training programs that would be customized for their needs on the job.

“Our employees want pipeline related training geared for them. Too much of the material on the market uses film or photos from warehouses or manufacturing, but working on the pipeline is different,” he said. “Pipeliners are proud of the great work they do, and to have training material specifically for pipeliners draws their immediate interest to the material – they get to see the work they do in the training material, the tasks they complete, the equipment they use, and the problems they encounter when on a project.”

In developing the program, Cat staff spent a lot of time learning the needs of the pipeline industry – including getting on the ground with the companies involved.

“The nature of their business is unique – it’s like a moving assembly line that creeps across the landscape – so we were right out there on the right of way shooting video on active projects,” Martel said. “That’s where the partnership really made this possible – we really relied on our partners in the development phase to give us examples and help us understand their industry. When we wrote a script or scenario, they would validate that we got it right or give us new ideas that would resonate with the trainees.”

Videos and role play scenarios of actual occurrences on pipeline construction sites are invaluable for employees, Parker noted.

“Having a training program geared to our industry immediately grabs the attention of our employees and keeps everyone interested in the material,” he said. “They can relate to the scenarios, the terminology, and in some cases may even know some of the people interviewed.”

The program that was launched earlier this year is a five-module set that is designed to foster safe work environments and help leaders at all levels understand and leverage the power of culture on safety performance. The Pipeline Safety Leadership Program focuses on personal accountability and emphasizes engagement, effective communication and positive recognition as the building blocks of safety culture excellence.

Sessions offer flexibility for delivery

The five modules include a total of 24 individual sessions that offer flexibility in how they are conducted. Martel said that was important to ensure companies could offer the training in the way that fit best for each operation.

“When a company acquires this program, we put them through a train-the-trainer program for three days, and teach their own trainers how to deliver it – how to present it, how to engage the audience, and all the other things needed to be a good trainer. They go back to their own organization and create their own training plan,” she said.

“This was designed to be flexible – the sessions can be presented as a tailgate in the morning, or in a case where early on in their pre-project training can be presented as a half-day.”

Cat can also send out trainers if needed, but the best approach is to have the program delivered from within each company.

Since the program launched in February, response has been very positive, Martel said.

“There’s been a lot of excitement and interest – it’s really the first time the pipeline industry has been presented with an option to use training that hasn’t been borrowed from another industry,” she noted.

Parker said that his group has implemented the training with good success thus far.

“The key is having great facilitators, not instructors or trainers... the facilitators bring out the discussion from those attending the training,” he said. “A great facilitator can do wonders with this material. The employees felt like they were part of the training program so they could relate to the foreman interviewed in the videos, they understood the lingo and had personally experienced many of the scenarios. Most said this material was needed years ago.” OGPN

  • Pipeline construction jobsites are constantly moving and changing; ensuring that
employees are safe is challenging, especially with few options for focused safety
training.
    Pipeline construction jobsites are constantly moving and changing; ensuring that employees are safe is challenging, especially with few options for focused safety training.
  • The Pipeline Safety Leadership Training program is designed to be delivered by facilitators within companies, with sessions designed to be short and flexible.
    The Pipeline Safety Leadership Training program is designed to be delivered by facilitators within companies, with sessions designed to be short and flexible.

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