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Assessing Construction Compliance

Gas utilities can make better use of their inspection budgets.

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2009

of federal, state, local and company procedures and practices.

• Gain and document information and insight into the construction performance of the several electric utilities and other utility systems with which the company together serves customers.

• Provide findings, conclusions and recommendations supporting opportunities for improvement with regard to the company’s construction management process, and as well for intercompany practices.

The newly designed risk-management and compliance program initially focused on four principal measures deemed to be most critical in avoiding failures and reportable incidents. However, in all, field auditors collected pass-fail information on 103 compliance factors at each inspection site. The four key and most critical measures are:

• Clearance between gas pipes and electric lines;

• Depth of cover over gas pipes;

• Distance of warning tape from gas pipes; and

• Continuity of locater wires.

Simply put, these are the elements in new-business residential construction that most initially believe, if non-compliant potentially can injure people and damage property.

But what about the other 103 compliance factors considered at each inspection? How do these affect risk? Must we keep up with the pass-fail performance on all 103 compliance factors? Are some more important than others; or is it just the four critical factors? Can we combine and use them all as one critical determinate of risk and installation compliance? Is it possible to measure separately the performance of crews and contractors, in certain locations, subdivisions, territories, regulatory jurisdiction or by type of customer served?

By using the new method, the information contained in all of the 103 compliance factors is brought together to capture the meaning in terms of risk management, providing a much more useful performance-management tool.

In addition to scoring each compliance factor on a pass-fail basis, it describes the risk of the entire installation by finding the individual contribution of each compliance factor to total risk. That is, instead of treating each of the 103 compliance factors in a single installation as if they had the same value, or equal weight, the new method determines the importance of each of the 103 compliance factors according to their contribution to the risk of the entire installation. If the inspection shows that an individual compliance factor fails, then rather than treating it as if it had the same value as any other factor that failed, it is treated according to its individual importance and contribution to total risk of the installation. The result is one measure based on weighted criteria, which provide the basis for a single risk-adjusted compliance score for each installation inspected (see Figure 1) .

The company ranks each of the items of information gathered at an inspection as to their contribution to the overall risk of the installation. If the total risk of the installation could be considered 100 percent, then what portion of the total does each one compliance factor represent? The authors found that about 10 percent of the items counted for about 50 percent of the entire risk. So it’s important to concentrate on those items having more importance. The alternative wastes time