Safety Drives Everything We Do
With a commitment to be the safest provider of natural gas services, the safety of Atmos Energy’s employees, customers, and communities has always been our number one priority. Safety is at the core of what we do. It's a value reflected in our Vision, it is essential to our culture, and it is evident in our people, processes, procedures, and practices.
Atmos Energy is responsible for operating approximately 78,000 miles of natural gas pipelines in more than 1,400 communities. There are many roles and responsibilities that contribute to operating efficiently, effectively, and reliably, and many factors that our leadership and all Atmos Energy employees consider when performing their jobs. But none is as important as safety.
Our commitment to safety is rooted in AtmoSpirit principles. Our focus on Employee Safety, System Safety, and Public Safety is what drives our procedures, practices, training, oversight, and assurance activities.
Safety isn’t just what we do, it is who we are.
“In my 35 years at Atmos Energy, my position has changed but my direction has not. My focus has always been on safety. I am inspired by the unwavering commitment of our employees to protecting their coworkers and their communities. It is a shared vision that unites us.”
John McDill, Senior Vice President of Utility Operations
Pipelines are the safest mode of energy transportation and one of the most highly regulated industries in our country, with requirements at the federal and state level. Over the years, the landscape of the natural gas industry has changed substantially, with new technologies, evolving customer needs, and increasingly stringent safety regulations. These changes advance the safe transportation and delivery of natural gas to customers and communities. Atmos Energy’s holistic approach to safety includes focusing on the long-term safety and reliability of our system. In fiscal year 2021, approximately 88 percent of our capital spending was directed towards the continued modernization of the safety and reliability of our distribution, transmission, and storage systems.
“Safely delivering natural gas to our customers is a responsibility we take very seriously. Our comprehensive pipeline safety procedures and practices meet regulatory requirements and help us protect the safety of our system and the welfare of our customers.”
Jennifer Ries, Vice President, Pipeline Safety
In 2019, we formally adopted a Pipeline Safety Management System (PSMS) to establish a formal framework for pipeline safety that builds on our existing pipeline safety efforts. The PSMS framework developed by American Petroleum Institute (API) uses a cyclical “Plan, Do, Check, Act” process to foster continuous improvement. We complete an annual evaluation of our PSMS and regularly incorporate internal and external lessons learned into our operating practices and training curriculum.
Atmos Energy maintains Integrity Management programs to achieve continual improvements to enhance safety. The programs include risk modeling that considers both the relative risks posed to our pipeline systems and the potential impacts of those risks.
Our comprehensive, risk-based pipeline replacement work is guided by our Integrity Management programs. In addition, we are continuing our work to upgrade transmission pipelines with pigging facilities and replace valves, fittings, and pipe to allow In-Line Inspection (ILI) tools to travel through the pipelines.
The frequency of monitoring of our transmission and distribution systems is based on criteria documented in our Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Manual that has been established to meet state and federal regulations. Inspections and maintenance work, such as leak surveys, corrosion control, and leak repairs, are performed regularly to maintain the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to Atmos Energy customers and communities.
Training to Maintain a Safe Work Environment and Reinforce Safe Operations
Atmos Energy field employees receive extensive in-person, virtual, and hands-on training, in addition to taking part in our Pipeline Safety Management System that provides continuous feedback.
Through our robust safety and technical training programs, our employees acquire the skills they need to perform their work safely. In Spring 2020, we successfully transitioned all employee education courses, including safety training, to a virtual format, and we continue to rely on experienced Field Mentors in our operating divisions to support the delivery of hands-on safety and technical training. In fiscal year 2021, employees completed over 88,000 hours of safety training. Learn more about our training and Atmos Energy Essentials in the Employees section of this report.
To assist in measuring our successes and finding opportunities for improvement, we evaluate our safety performance using a variety of metrics. Our current Recordable Injury Rate (RIR) and Days Away/Restricted/Transfer Injury Rate (DART) have both decreased when compared to 2016. In addition, our Reportable Motor Vehicle Collision Rate (RMVC) outperforms the American Gas Association (AGA) industry average for vehicular safety.
(per 200,000 hours worked)
(per 200,000 hours worked)
(per 1,000,000 miles driven)
AGA Peer Review Program
To reinforce our commitment to safety, Atmos Energy actively participates in the AGA’s voluntary Peer Review Program, which aims to support continuous improvement in safety and other important aspects of the natural gas industry. Each year, we collaborate with industry peers to discuss best practices and identify key areas and opportunities for improvement. Atmos Energy joined 10 other natural gas companies to pilot the Peer Review Program in 2013 and develop the foundation for what has become a nationwide industry effort to further advance safety.
We continually promote safe digging practices and the importance of contacting 811 to our customers, communities, and excavators through proactive awareness efforts that include community events, social media, and public relations activities.
We have robust, multi-channel safety outreach efforts through our public awareness campaigns, community involvement, and continued relationships with regulators, city leaders, and first responders. We communicate natural gas safety information to our customers and the public through bill inserts, on-hold messaging, signage, customer e-mails, and social media campaigns.
The Atmos Energy Damage Prevention Ambassador program and associated training was rolled out in 2019 for employees across the company. The Ambassador program empowers employees to take action and help eliminate damages to company facilities by making stops at excavation sites to educate the public and promote safe digging practices, including contacting 811.
In 29 percent of all stops, employees found that excavators did not have a valid 811 ticket, the ticket had expired, or their excavation plan included the use of mechanized equipment within the utility tolerance zone without first exposing the utilities. If pipeline danger exists, the Ambassador stops the work and the excavator is asked to call 811 and cease digging so that utilities can mark their lines, as required under state law. This is one more way we put our safety vision into action.
With an increasing number of public infrastructure projects and expanding economic development, damage to our pipelines resulting from excavation remains a primary safety risk. We have been and will continue to be a champion for damage prevention. Over the past five years, due to strong economic development and population growth in our service territories, the number of locate tickets we have received has continued to trend upward, but the number of damages caused by third parties per locate ticket has trended downward from 2.67 in fiscal year 2017 to 2.33 in fiscal year 2021, which is better than the industry average.
Our First Responder Natural Gas Workshops provide emergency response teams with detailed information and procedures to safely work around natural gas and carbon monoxide.
We coordinate with local fire departments and other first responders to assist in emergency responses in the event of a natural gas leak.
We prepare and maintain local emergency plans for specific operating areas, and local supervisors conduct annual reviews of these plans. We also conduct tabletop exercises and emergency plan refresher training to confirm readiness and preparedness. During an emergency, our Incident Command System (ICS) provides guidance and instruction to Atmos Energy Emergency Responders, who follow the “H-E-L-P” action procedure—Determine Hazard, Determine Extent of Hazard, Protect Life, and Protect Property. More information on our first responder partnerships can be found here.
We also partner with regulators, local community groups, and first responders to advance pipeline safety awareness and emergency response efforts.
“Atmos Energy partners with organizations to support pipeline safety training for first responders and school pipeline safety programs. Advance preparation is essential to a successful emergency response effort and the foundation has strengthened the communication between pipeline operators and first responders.”
Kelee L., Compliance Analyst