PHMSA has provided a report to Congress on PHMSA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 staffing and hiring plans and actual turnover and hiring in FY 2019 for the Office of Pipeline Safety. Per the report, PHMSA continues to work towards its full employment goal of 308 Pipeline Safety personnel. As of September 30, 2019, the Office of Pipeline Safety had 288 (93 percent) of its positions filled. Of the 288 persons onboard, 143 were inspectors (about half). Of the 21 vacancies, 12 were inspector positions (again, about half). While PHMSA is successful in recruiting and hiring, it continues to be challenged with employee retention. In total, PHMSA lost a net of 9 (23 hires less 32 separations) pipeline safety employees, for an 11.1% turnover rate. This rate is largely attributed to the robust energy industry. Growth in this industry has created job openings for pipeline and energy systems engineers in both the private and public sectors, resulting in a shortage of qualified applicants.
Editor’s note: I suspect that the current energy glut will largely resolve PHMSA’s recruiting and retention problems.