Welcome to the OPS Operator Qualification website. This web site is designed to provide information to regulators and pipeline operators on the Operator Qualification (OQ) Rules (49 CFR Part 192, Subpart N; and 49 CFR Part 195, Subpart G). This information is structured around a flow diagram depicting the eight elements the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) believes an operator needs to address to satisfy the requirements of those Rules. Associated with each element is useful information including: applicable provisions of the Rules and the Preamble, frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to each element, and the set of protocol questions developed for use in inspecting operator programs against provisions of the Rules.
The information on this site will continue to evolve to ensure that it represents the most up-to-date reference on OQ for regulators and operators. The protocols currently shown are a complete set of questions intended to support inspections. As expected, a public dialog (designed to gather information that will help us more clearly present regulatory expectations on operator OQ Programs) has lead to the current structure of the protocol questions and of the content of the set of FAQs. Information on this public dialog is incorporated on the web site in notes from the series of Public Meetings.
The protocol questions to be used in support of operator inspections are accompanied by a set of supplementary guidance intended for use by inspectors to increase consistency of inspections by more clearly communicating regulatory expectations. The complete set of inspection questions, supplementary guidance and inspector training material may be accessed by clicking on "Protocols" in the menu, then on the "OQ inspection form" link at the beginning of the second paragraph.
The protocol questions presented here are intended not only to verify operator compliance with the prescriptive provisions of the rules, but also to support evaluation of the OQ management processes used by the operators to comply with the performance-based provisions of the rules. While enforcement actions involving Notice Of Probable Violations (NOPV), Compliance Order (CO) and Civil Penalty (CP) will, as always, be tied to prescriptive requirements of the rules, we believe that the questions supporting evaluation of OQ management process elements are needed for inspectors to understand how rule's performance requirements are met,. The performance requirements, if not up to OPS expectations, may result in enforcement actions at the level of Notice Of Amendment (NOA) or Letter Of Concern (LOC), and are consistent with the intent of the performance language in the Rule. Enforcement policies are addressed in 49 CFR Part 190.