Is a Perfect Pipeline Safety Record Possible?

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Is a Perfect Pipeline Safety Record Possible?

“Not a scratch, scrape, puncture, or cut . . . we haven’t even sent anybody to the doctor.”
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Is a perfect #safety record possible? YES. Just ask employees on TransCanada's Tuscarora #pipeline.
Friday, January 22, 2016 - 6:05pm


After 20 years, Tuscarora Gas Transmission's safety record remains unblemished
Every company’s goal is to have a perfect safety record. But is perfection really possible? In a word: Yes.

Consider Tuscarora Gas Transmission, an interstate natural gas transportation system operated by TransCanada in California and Nevada. After 20 years in operation, the Tuscarora pipeline has not only logged zero lost-time incidents, it hasn’t had a single recordable event.

“Not a scratch, scrape, puncture, or cut,” says Kevin Walker, a multi-skilled technician who has worked at Tuscarora since it went into service in 1995. “We haven’t even sent anybody to the doctor.”

Considering the rugged terrain, the safety record is astounding
Admittedly, at no point in its history has the pipeline had enough employees to field a football team, numbering between four and nine full-time employees at any given time over the last two decades. But given the nature of pipeline work and the rugged and often snow-covered terrain employees must travel every day to do their jobs, the record is nothing short of astounding.

“From the start of the construction planning phase on through to day-to-day operations, safety has always been a key focus for those involved with the building and operations of the Tuscarora system . . . It is nice to reflect back on the 20 years and recognize our efforts were worth it,” says David Montemurro, TransCanada’s management committee representative during Tuscarora’s early years.

Small team takes pride in ownership of Tuscarora's safety record
Tuscarora extends 229 miles (490 kilometres) southward from the Oregon-California border at Malin across mountainous northern California and into Nevada’s High Desert, where it interconnects with Paiute Pipeline near Wadsworth, Nev. The 20-inch-diameter pipeline has operational capacity of 236 million dekatherms per day and serves a mix of utilities, industrial facilities and casinos.

“It has always been a small team,” says Terry Wolverton, currently senior community relations advisor for U.S. Projects, who also worked for Tuscarora from the very beginning. “Our office was about the size of a lunch room. We didn’t have layers of management. Our communications were direct, and our leadership was excellent.

“We would work together to lay out a plan, we communicated it fully, and then we executed effectively and efficiently. No matter what it was, you had your hands on it. You felt the pulse,” Terry recalls. “And there was never any allowance for cutting corners.”

“It’s like pride of ownership,” Kevin says of his relationship to Tuscarora. “We have a lot of skin in it. And not just on the operations side. We operate in small, rural communities, and we’ve built a lot of trust over the years with local citizens.

Safety is not about records, it’s about day-to-day performance
“Given the length of the pipeline and the small crew, we spend a lot of time working alone,” says Kevin. “But any one of us, we always know where the other guy is headed. We know where people are, and they know where we are. You always know the team has your back.”

So, is perfection a reasonable expectation?
At TransCanada, the reality of the overall safety program — from extensive training to proper planning and efficient execution — is that we can and will do better. Our overall philosophy and approach to developing corporate safety targets is to set them such that we drive continuous improvement year after year.

TransCanada’s concern for safety is not limited to its employees and contractors. The company’s goal is to ensure that our pipeline and energy facilities operate safely every day and that the public, our employees and the environment are never negatively affected by an incident involving our assets.

Keywords: Awards & Recognition | Energy | Gas | Oil & Gas | Tuscarora | natural gas | pipeline | safety