Pipeline Owners Warned of Electronic Distractions

Owners and operators of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities should have policies governing the use of personal electronic devices by certain employees, the DOT agency said Tuesday.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued an Advisory Bulletin to alert owners and operators of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline facilities that they should have policies governing the use of personal electronic devices by employees performing maintenance work that affects operation or integrity. The agency said it does not intend to discourage the devices' use as part of normal business operations.

"There may be increased risks associated with the use of PEDs by personnel performing pipeline activities affecting operation or integrity," PHMSA said in its Federal Register notice. "Pipeline operations and maintenance tasks require a critical level of attention and skill, which may be compromised by visual, manual, or cognitive distractions caused by the use of PEDs. Such distractions may also hinder their prompt recognition and reaction to abnormal operating conditions and emergencies.

"PHMSA recommends that operators integrate into their written procedures for operations and maintenance appropriate controls regarding the use of PEDs by individuals performing pipeline tasks that may affect pipeline operation or integrity. . . . PHMSA also recommends that operators provide guidance and training for all personnel about the risks associated with the use of PEDs while driving, and while performing activities on behalf of the company if that use poses a risk to safety."

PHMSA is a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This bulletin, which bears the name of Jeffrey D. Wiese, associate administrator for Pipeline Safety, is consistent with anti-distraction efforts by DOT, including a policy limiting railroad employees' use of electronic communication devices. For information about the PHMSA bulletin, contact Cameron Satterthwaite at 202-366-1319 or cameron.satterthwaite@dot.gov. General information about DOT's work on distracted driving may be found at http://www.distractions.gov.

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