Safety & System Integrity


Colonial’s Safety Management System (SMS) is a systematic approach to safety that is integrated throughout the company. Based on standards developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and peer pipeline operators, Colonial’s SMS provides a framework that drives continuous improvement and excellence in safety.

Continuous Improvement/​Recommended Practices

Colonial Pipeline is committed to continuously improving our systems and processes to maintain a highly efficient, best-in-class pipeline network.

Based on API standards, Colonial:

  • Plans pipeline operations with established safety objectives and the processes necessary to deliver results
  • Performs operations in accordance with the safety plan
  • Reviews performance indicators to measure improvement
  • Evaluates organizational performance
  • Considers recommendations for changes from team members
  • Implements operational refinements as necessary to enhance safety

Systematic Approach to Pipeline Safety Management

As an industry responsible for delivering energy throughout the nation, we take measures to protect communities and the environment. Safety Management Systems (SMS) have made a critical difference in other industries, such as aviation, nuclear power, and chemical manufacturing.

Pipeline operators, through the American Petroleum Institute (API) and in partnership with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), state pipeline regulators, and other interested stakeholders, developed API RP 1173 to bring the benefits of SMS to pipeline operations. Pipeline operators use API RP 1173 to systematically manage pipeline safety, and continuously measure progress to improve overall pipeline safety performance.

Implementation of Pipeline SMS is a journey, not a destination, and operators face challenges and bumps along the way. With leadership commitment, the pipeline industry reaps the benefits of continual safe operations resulting from a strong Pipeline SMS.

SMS Key Elements

SMS includes 11 essential elements for the comprehensive and systematic management of safety-related activities for pipeline operations. The elements are part of a logical, repeatable, and consistent approach to ensure safe pipeline operations across Colonial’s complex operating organization.

1. Leadership and management commitment

2. Stakeholder engagement

3. Risk management

4. Operational controls

5. Incident investigation, evaluation, and lessons learned

6. Safety assurance

7. Management review and continuous improvement

8. Emergency preparedness and response

9. Competence, awareness, and training

10. Documentation and record keeping

11. Contractor Safety Management

Continuous Safety Performance Improvement

Like other management systems, Colonial’s SMS uses a Plan-Do-Check-Adjust process to enable continuous safety performance improvement. Colonial ​Plans” pipeline operations with established safety objectives and processes necessary to deliver improved results. The ​Do” phase is how Colonial executes its plans. Key to the process, Colonial​Checks” performance indicators to measure improvement. Based on evaluations of performance by the organization and its management, adjustments to ​Adjusts” upon areas for safety performance improvement are identified and executed.


Colonial Pipeline invests substantial resources in maintaining and monitoring the pipeline system. From precise design and construction standards to sophisticated computer monitoring and other leading-edge technologies, maintaining the safety of Colonial’s pipelines is an area of constant focus for the company.

Aerial Patrols

The Colonial mainline pipeline system is inspected by piloted aircraft on a weekly basis. This exceeds federal requirements that pipeline easements be inspected 26 times per year. Because thousands of miles of pipes are in areas that are difficult to access at ground level, aerial inspections are an effective way to monitor pipes and rights-of-way.

Internal Inspections

Using advanced technologies, Colonial Pipeline examines its 5,500 mile pipeline network. These devices, or ​“Smart Pigs,” are highly-advanced inline inspection tools that travel through Colonial’s system. One technology used is similar to what doctors use for ultrasounds. The different technologies deliver data about the health of the pipeline that Colonial engineers analyze to determine if additional actions or maintenance is required to keep our lines in top operating condition.

Corrosion Prevention

Colonial employs a strategic approach to corrosion prevention based on environmental conditions, land use, and available technologies. For example, Cathodic Protection is a technology that works in conjunction with pipeline coating systems and is designed to protect the pipeline from corrosion.

Cathodic protection system effectiveness is monitored through above ground survey techniques and identifies locations where active corrosion may be occurring. During a survey, the level of cathodic protection is continuously measured as a survey crew walks over the pipeline. Cathodic protection levels outside of the expected operating range are identified by engineers and appropriate remediation efforts are implemented.