This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Byron Coy discussing the importance of team training within the industry, why connections between different workers are crucial and the importance of keeping up with the correct training records.
In this episode, you will learn about the concept of team training, the different ways to implement training into the company annually, and determining which job titles need to receive the training.
Team Training Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms:
- Byron Coy is a highly accomplished pipeline safety professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. He has dedicated his career to managing and mitigating pipeline safety risks, specializing in the application of pipeline safety regulations. Byron is currently working as a member of the regulatory advisory team at EnerSys Corporation. Connect with Byron on LinkedIn.
- EnerSys Corporation, an EnerACT company, provides pipeline control room software tools and related subject matter expertise to the oil and gas pipeline industry. EnerSys is focused on control room operations, including SCADA, scheduling, control room management, leak detection, and interaction with field operations.
- The Marshall Incident, also known as the Enbridge Incorporated Hazardous Liquid Rupture and Release incident, occurred on July 25, 2010, in Marshall, Michigan. [Read the full NTSB Accident Report.]
- NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is a U.S. government agency responsible for the safety of the nation’s major transportation systems: Aviation, Highway, Marine, Railroad, and Pipeline. The entity investigates incidents and accidents involving transportation and also makes recommendations for safety improvements.
- PHSMA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) ensures the safe transportation of energy and hazardous materials.
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at remote locations.
- View Byron’s outline over effective team training here.
Team Training Full Episode Transcript:
Russel Treat: Welcome to the “Pipeliners Podcast,” Episode 308, sponsored by EnerSys Corporation, providers of POEMS, the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System. Compliance operations software for the pipeline control center to address control room management SCADA and audit readiness. Find out more about POEMS at EnerSysCorp.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. And now your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time, and to show that appreciation, we are giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener every episode. This week, our winner is Steve Dittman with Marathon Pipeline.
Congratulations, Steve. Your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this signature prize, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week, we’re going to speak with Byron Coy of EnerSys Corporation, and we’re going to talk about effective team training. Byron, welcome back to the Pipeliners podcast.
Byron Coy: Glad to be here, Russell.
Russel: I guess before we dive in, we’ll just remind everybody that Byron is a Principal Regulatory Consultant with EnerSys Corporation and has recently retired for PHMSA after a long career, and has a background in pipeline safety, control room management, pipeline operations, all that stuff.
At least in my world, which is the control room world, everybody knows Byron.
Byron: I appreciate that. I don’t like that retired word. I prefer to say I spent my time at PHMSA and now I’ve moved back to industry.
Russel: Good. Noted. I’ll correct it accordingly. Very good. We’re going to talk about team training today. Before we dive into the conversation, I just want to make a couple of notes. Whenever Byron and I get together to do one of these conversations, he does an exceedingly good job of outlining and putting structure into the conversation.
We’ve got a nice outline we’re going to follow. I’m going to make sure that’s available in the show notes. For the listeners that don’t know, on the website – PipelinePodcastNetwork.com – we have show notes, which are links to resources and a transcript of the episode.
Text, basically, that you can use if you’re trying to do research or if this supports something you’re trying to do in your organization. Just be aware that this content is available there, and that Byron does a really good job of organizing things.
Byron, thanks for that, and before we dive in, I want to ask you, where does team training come from?
Byron: The concept of team training, or like I say, team activities, has been around for a long, long time. You can imagine that the concept of team is pretty important in the control room world. As such, having a good team protocol for regular operations and unusual circumstances, failures as well, how a team operates becomes more important to being successful.
Russel: My first exposure to that is around the cockpit, having a background in the Air Force not as a pilot, but if you’re in the Air Force, you learn these things. There’s a lot that goes on. Anybody that’s taking flying lessons learns that a big part of that is the team training between you and ground control and flight control and all that.
Byron: The concept of team activities became more apparent a few years ago when there was a pipeline failure in Marshall, Michigan. NTSB did a fairly extensive investigation on that failure and filed a report that’s available on their website. They called out a number of things, and one of their recommendations they made to PHMSA at that time was to require team training to become part of the regulations.
Russel: For the folks that haven’t read that report, one of the things it clearly points out is that in that control center, there were multiple roles including the controller, a shift supervisor, and a leak detection person who’s actually working the shift. Part of that failure – or the magnitude of the consequences is probably a better way to say it – part of the contribution to that was ineffective communication and decision making within that key team, particularly around the time of the event as they were trying to figure out what was going on.
Byron: As a result of that event and the NTSB recommendation, PHMSA wrote team training into the reg’s in 2017 with an effective date in early 2018.
Russel: At a high level, what’s in the rule? What are the key things that operators are being asked to do to implement team training?
Byron: It’s peculiar how things turn out. A statement in the regulations can be a sentence or two long. When you think about what that requires and what people would have to do and how a pipeline company would demonstrate that they’re engaged on a topic, it turns into a laundry list of things that they ought to be doing and many different ways that they can accomplish any one of them.
It’s become a fairly heavy lift for a lot of operators to have a team training program and have it be effective and touch all the bases. There are – I don’t know – just about 10 FAQs on that topic alone.
Russel: We haven’t done a whole lot of work in team training. We facilitated some stuff. It’s one of those areas where, when you really think about how you do it well, it’s a lot of people that are impacted. There’s a lot of people that interact with the control room, particularly during an abnormal or emergency situation.
Byron: I’ve got this divided into four topic areas that listeners can peruse. The first of the four topics that I wanted to talk about was identifying the job titles that should be participating in the team training effort. You think, obviously, the control room communicates routinely with a lot of people, just in the course of business, that are people in the control room.
Operations and maintenance people in the field, SCADA technicians behind the scenes, engineering for operational considerations. Got the contracts and scheduling departments. They have their own interests. A lot of control rooms have some third party service providers of various forms.
It’s obvious that all those kinds of people, they’re in play to keep operations running normally and, in essence, to avoid abnormal operating conditions and events from maybe even starting.
There’s another group of people that can get involved in team training as well. They’re there and come into play more often whenever things aren’t going so right. Abnormal conditions are occurring, or, heaven forbid, there’s been some sort of an event or failure.
Maybe some more engineering people, emergency response, operations executives that actually want to know what’s going on with the expletives, those involved with leaks and failure events. If there’s someone who has the authority to intervene or supersede on the controllers, they’ll probably step in as well. Then the regulatory staff, because they know they’re going to be getting calls. As you said, Russel, it’s a lot of people. A lot of job positions could get involved.
Russel: It’s interesting too that when you think about team training, at least the operators that I’ve worked with, the focus has been more on the abnormal and emergency operations than on the routine because the routine, you learn that from your day to day.
The higher level operators actually focus on that routine. They look to put more structure around it. Things like phonetic alphabet and clear “Here’s what you do when you make a phone call. These are the things you say. These are the things you ask for.” That structure and that habit, it actually helps when things are going more towards the abnormal direction.
Just thinking about the number of people that are involved, it’s everybody that would interact with the control room, both inside your company and out.
Byron: As you mentioned, interact, whether under normal conditions, or maybe even more important, in my opinion, the people who infrequently communicate. When those communications happen, it’s because something’s going south.
Russel: That’s a very good point. That’s a very good point. If you take the cockpit analogy, they don’t really train pilots on routine flight, other than when they’re getting their requalification or they’re moving to a new airframe. They frequently train them on abnormal flights. They have requirements to be in the simulator and get that abnormal flight training.
Byron: We have this laundry list of job titles that would have the occasion to be communicating in and out of the control room, but there are issues with that. If an operator has made an acquisition recently…They’ve identified I&E technicians as someone who’s on the list for team training. In the assets that they acquired, those people don’t have that job title. It’s something else.
Especially after assets are acquired, make sure the range of job titles that need to be trained include all the people. Operators, they have to account for new hires. When they come in, they have to be trained.
A lot of people overlook and say, “We’re going to train new hires that have a job title that fits team training,” but they don’t account for someone who has changed jobs within the company, into a role that requires team training. They’re not a new hire. They might have been there for 20 years. How they handle new hires and people who have transferred into those kinds of positions will be handled the same.
After you have this list of job titles that need to be trained, somebody has to go about taking those job titles and putting names behind them. You don’t train a job title. You train a person. All those persons who have got on a team training list from their job title have to be trained. It’s not not just a representative sampling of somebody. It’s everybody that’s on the list.
According to the FAQs, each of the team training sessions that are held should include at least one controller. If you think about it, the idea of team training is from a control room perspective. It wouldn’t be good to have a team training exercise if it just had a bunch of field people in it and nobody from the control room.
Russel: That’s a very good point. One of the things I’ve heard operators ask, often, when they’re trying to design their programs is…There’s so much training that is required, all the OQ and other kinds of training that’s required. What I hear them asking is “Can we take this team training and combine it with other training?”
I think the answer is “Maybe,” but the key thing you have to make sure you’re doing is that you’re clear what part of that training is around the control room and meeting the team training requirements that are control room focused. There’s really not that much training in an organization that’s focused that way.
Byron: I know some people have done that or try to do that, but I think it becomes more of a records nightmare to keep track of who was where and who missed the tailgate session we had last week. The three of the people who were there were team trained. There are people from the same district that weren’t there because they wouldn’t have been in that particular tailgate.
Russel: It’s problematic, no doubt.
Byron: Team training, there’s no specific time frame set in the regulations for how often someone needs training. It just says, “Provide training.” Pipeline operators are expected to put something in their program to identify what the frequency or repeat sessions would be.
Some people have one year. I know a lot of people use three. The state or federal inspector is going to be looking for a time frame to be established and then hold the operator to what their program calls for.
For a larger company, it’s almost impractical to think that they’d have one team training session a year to cover the 30, 40, or 50 people that might be involved in four different time zones. They may have repeat sessions at different times, different shifts, or different parts of the country to make sure they have everybody that’s been identified participates.
Russel: You mentioned the number 50. I know of at least one operator, when they did their evaluation, their number was 1,500 people they thought they needed to team train. A lot of that depends on how you operate and how people interact with the control room.
This particular operator, what I call dudes in trucks – that’s male and female people riding around in trucks doing the work that’s required in the field – they were expected, in this operation, the way they were organized, to interact directly with the control room. That radically increased the number of people that needed to be team trained.
Byron: That brings up a good point, Russel. It’s important that they’ve identified all those people to be interfacing, possibly, with the control room. The control room is trying to run their business as well.
Does a company really want or have a need for 1,500 people to be calling into the control room? I don’t know what the right number is or what the percentage of staff should be on a list. There’s no rule of thumb for that.
Russel: It really goes to how the company is organized and how they operate and how they delegate authority in the field, how all that works. Responsiveness is quicker when it’s closer to the work being done. You make a good point because that does create a whole bunch of logistical challenges when you start having a group that large.
Byron: We’ve identified the job titles of the people we think need to be trained. We translated these job titles into specific names of people who would be participating in the training. Let’s talk a little bit about the actual training events themselves.
I mentioned, a lot of people, it’s an annual event, just because of changes and shuffles in the organization. They may only require an individual to get team training once every three years, but they have an annual event because of the shuffle of people in and out of the training umbrella.
That’s OK. They just have to make sure to keep track and make sure that everybody that should be trained is training on the frequency that they have established.
As far as the content of the training, maybe talk about soft skills first. We’re wanting to advance the importance, to the people getting trained, about personal interaction being paramount to effect a good team event for abnormal conditions or some emergency that may be occurring.
I know a lot of folks who do teamwork or team building exercises, they play games and the like that create an interaction, explaining the benefits of collaboration. I recall one where they asked the 20 or so people that were in the session, “Take five minutes and figure out what are the three most important things you need when the ship goes down.”
Then they put everybody together and discuss it. The consolidated answer of the team was a better choice of things to keep rather than any individual’s list, thereby demonstrating the value of the team. Maybe some problem solving exercises as well, but maybe not necessarily associated with the pipeline, but still demonstrating the importance of teamwork.
The second item on the content list might be scenario discussions, so an operator can think about the abnormal or near miss events that have occurred recently, perhaps even an incident or an accident, talk about what happened – not trying to lay blame on anyone – but if there’s an abnormal event that they eventually got past, if it hadn’t gone well, even an abnormal would have turned into an emergency.
Talking about those kinds of things gives the opportunity to explain what went well and why it might’ve gone bad if the team didn’t work efficiently. A company might even use events that have occurred on other people’s pipelines.
They might not know the details of those events, but it might give them ideas about creating a scenario. There’s lots of material on NTSB reports. It could be used to build scenarios. I warn people that if you’re going to create a scenario, make one that’s realistic.
If it’s too far fetched, we don’t want Martians invading and taking over the pump station. Because you’re going to lose the students. Keep it more realistic. I know some people, they struggle for material, they invite speakers to speak on a topic, and maybe not necessarily pipeline people.
I can think of the local fire chief, maybe some sort of military representative, county disaster coordinator, or maybe even the local stadium management. Trying to manage a big event that’s occurring at the ball field, and what they do to orchestrate the team effort that they have to do to get things done.
If you find a speaker outside the pipeline box, it may keep the training more interesting to the people who are sitting in the classroom.
Russel: Yeah, it’s interesting. The rule doesn’t really specify what you need to do. It gives you some general guidelines and you’re left to your own devices. The rule is pretty clear about what they want you to accomplish – more effective team operations – but not a lot of guidance.
I’ve seen a lot of people really struggle. They ask all kinds of questions. “Should this be one day? Should it be two days? Can we do it in parts? Do we need to do it all together?” The answer to all of that is any of that can work. It’s really up to the individual operator to figure out what makes the most sense for themselves.
Byron: That’s for sure. Ultimately, whatever they choose to do, they have to have a congealed set of material that you’re using in content, identify the right people to participate, and keep records. The more distributed the process is, the harder it’s going to be for them to keep a hold of all the bits and pieces to be able to demonstrate through records that they’ve accomplished the task.
Russel: Actually, I want to unpack that a little bit, Byron. Because every time you say records, sometimes there’s all kinds of different levels of difficulties with creating records. I think training records in particular provide a very unique level of difficulty, because they’re across the entirety of the organization.
Knowing that this individual has been trained for the job they’re doing and within the timeframes required is often non-trivial.
Byron: You’re right. The more consolidated the team training exercise is, the easier it’ll be to have records. That’s not going to be practical for people that are scattered all over the countryside.
Russel: That’s right. When you add the complexity of new people coming in, old people leaving, and people that have been around moving between jobs and roles and all of that. It is a complex thing. You are required to have those records. I don’t know who I heard it from, but basically if there’s no paperwork, then the work didn’t happen.
Byron: That might be depending on which inspector performs the inspection.
Russel: Fair enough, but you get my point.
Byron: For sure.
Russel: One of the things I wanted to talk about in particular is the effectiveness reviews. I would make an assertion, I’d like to hear your opinion about this, that you’re going to know how good your team training is by what you’re collecting from the participants around the effectiveness of what you’re doing.
If you’re having good team training, people are going to have meaningful takeaways.
Byron: You surely will and you should have a good participation during the training as well as a metric of their engagement. A key to getting feedback from team training or other things you may get engaged to is you want to make it easy for the participants to provide feedback.
You don’t want to finish your training and ask everybody to write a two page essay on the training because that’s not going to happen. If you ask some questions, or a grayscale, how did this part work, how was this topic, that topic?
Making checks and Xs, and good and bad, provides an easy way to get feedback. It’s also good to leave a spot somewhere in your feedback for people to write their candid comments that you haven’t orchestrated for them, so they’ve got a way to add a little color in their feedback.
Often, a lot of people don’t include what I call the trainer’s assessment. You get feedback from all the participants, but somebody orchestrated this training. They had an eye on the participants, how much chatter, questions they were asked, how often were people rolling their eyes, or maybe some you couldn’t see their eyes because their eyelids were closed on occasion.
Having a trainer’s assessment along with the feedback from all the participants is a valuable piece. Someone’s going to have to go over all that feedback and notes and the like that were collected from the training, and that becomes one of the records. Not the only record, but one of the records that you end up with in the end.
Russel: One of my key takeaways from the things I have participated in is when it’s done well, people walk away feeling like it was a good expenditure of their time because they got meaningful learning out of it. The best training combines a multitude of elements.
You need some soft skill training specific to interacting with the control room. You need some contextual training, and here’s some rules and guidelines to follow. It’s the exercises themselves that have the most opportunity to really provide the effective training.
Particularly if you can do an exercise where there’s a little bit of a connection between the emotion of working an event, not just the intellectual exercise of working an event. Because it’s that emotional experience that kind of causes that training to land and stay planted.
Byron: Another metric I picked up over the years is that, when the training is completed, you should have provided the opportunity for the participants to communicate with each other. Especially those people who may talk on a daily basis and rarely, if ever, see each other. Team training provides a good opportunity for that.
Russel: Yeah, good opportunity to actually build a team because you’re actually in the same room, relating to people and getting to know them in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know them. Again, I think that’s a great point.
I would think at this point most operators have something in place for team training. Because it is a requirement and they need to have it implemented. What would you, in your experience, say are some of the best practices that you’ve seen? What are some operators doing that you thought were noteworthy?
I wouldn’t ask you to mention any names, but just curious what kind of things you’ve seen that you thought, “That’s particularly noteworthy.”?
Byron: I think that having an individual team training session, or sessions, is probably more beneficial than trying to tag it in with other meetings and that may be going on. “Hey, we’re having a tailgate the first Tuesday of every month, and the last half hour we’re going to claim as team training.”
I just don’t think that provides the opportunity to get involved in the topic. Having a separate session provides more benefit to everybody that participates. It also creates an easier way to establish the records for it occurring.
Scenarios are used extensively. They’re valuable as long as they’re not there to figure out who’s at fault. That’s not the object of training. Training is to see how using the team and using the team well can avoid issues or solve problems faster.
Russel: My premise around that sort of thing, Byron, is it’s never the individuals that are at fault. It’s always something to do with the process, the procedure, the training, the tools, or the systems. People, given the right training, tools, systems, are going to make good decisions. It’s when you have a breakdown in one of those things that you have problems.
One of the things that good team training can do is it can reveal if you have holes or difficulties or issues that you need to address in your systems.
Byron: I like the way you’re thinking about that.
Russel: In fact, one of the things I’ve notionally played with as an idea…I don’t have the bandwidth or the resources to do this. I do have a good friend of mine that took a piece of gaming software and built a game to provide training around cybersecurity. It’s really interesting. It’s very well done.
I’ve often wondered if we couldn’t build some kind of game to support team training. We have a lot of focus in our industry on emulators and simulators that replicate the system that we operate. I wonder if we couldn’t get something meaningful by designing a game that would provide training and give the fullness of the experience.
Byron: I wouldn’t see why not. It sounds like a very valuable topic for someone to figure that out.
Russel: Maybe there’s some pipeliner working in a garage someplace trying to figure that out right now. You never know.
Byron: Hey, Russel, if you don’t mind, can we talk about records a little bit here?
Russel: Yeah, absolutely. I could make a smart remark and say, “I don’t really want to talk about records,” but I do think it’s necessary.
Byron: If there’s no records, it probably didn’t happen.
Russel: That’s right.
Byron: After these sessions, first thing, I’ve got a list of the kind of things that ought to be able to be presented if someone’s challenging a company about their team training process and thoroughness thereof.
First, what are the dates? When did the team training sessions occur? Maybe the most recent one or the one before that or the like. Maybe you have multiple sessions in different parts of the country, or you’re trying to arrange for covering different schedules.
For each one of those sessions, what was the agenda? Maybe it’s been the same for the last three or four different sessions. Nonetheless, what’s the agenda for those individual sessions? What was the content? Not just January 17th. It was the afternoon of January 17th, one to five o’clock or something.
What are the training materials that were used? You got a couple of PowerPoints, a video. Someone put a scenario together that you used during the session. Maybe you got the piece of paper that sets up the scenario, those kinds of training materials that were used during the session.
A roster of the job titles that you’re trying to account for to get trained. We mentioned operations, SCADA techs, engineers, I&Es, regulatory staff, or others.
The actual names of the people who were in training, representative of those titles. That might be a roster of who you intended to be there. Now we want to know who was actually there, not just who was invited, who actually participated.
The operator knows that there’s some people that were invited, but, for some reason, they weren’t there. Part of the record needs to demonstrate what you did to follow up on those no shows. They need to get accounted for, maybe somehow in the next session. Maybe they’re not in the same job anymore, but the record should demonstrate that the no shows were accounted for.
Lastly, on my list here, is taking actions based on those effectiveness findings that we talked about a few minutes ago. That set of material should all be packaged up for each one of the team training sessions that was held.
Russel: Once you have that record created, other than having it to support an inspection, is there any other value or use of that record that would be warranted or might be an example of a best practice to really get the value out of spending the effort to do the team training?
Byron: For sure. What actions an operator had to do to follow up on the participants. Were they engaged in the effectiveness findings? Each one of those has the potential of changing the content, the sequence, or the duration of the next meeting that’s going to happen, based on the outcome of effectiveness and all the materials that were used this time and the time before.
Russel: That’s a pretty comprehensive walk down of what’s necessary for team training. The thing that I have taken away is it’s really quite valuable when it’s done well.
This is an opinion. I don’t know that I have any data to back this up. At least in my experience, I would say the things that are done less frequently but more deliberately and in person tend to provide more value.
The real value comes from getting everybody in the room, doing the training, working the exercises, doing the debriefing of the exercises. That’s harder to do. It’s more expensive to do. Certainly, I think that it’s more valuable to do. At least that would be my takeaway.
Byron: Knowing that you had a direct conversation with a fella that you work with on a daily basis…Maybe the team training was the first and maybe only time you ever ever see this fella, but you talk to him on the phone every day. He’s out in the field, cranking valves, switching tanks for the things that you need to have done to keep the pipeline running.
Russel: Exactly. This has been excellent. Like we said at the beginning, we’ll put all this together in a nice little package on the website. If anybody’s looking at their program or wants to give some thought as to “Have I got it right? Do I need to review or improve it,” you can use this. Hopefully, this will be of some benefit.
Again, Byron, thank you very much for joining us. I always appreciate your insight. You’re just a wealth of knowledge on these topics. Thank you again.
Byron: Glad I could help out. Talk to you again soon.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast, our conversation with Byron. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customer Pipeliners Podcast Yeti Tumbler. Simply visit PipelinePodcastNetwork.com/Win and enter yourself in the draw.
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Transcription by CastingWords