As it’s a legal requirement to have a valid Written Scheme of Examination (WSE) in order to outline the specific pressure equipment and systems you are operating, it’s reasonable to ask how much a WSE will cost.

Unfortunately, due to the scale and variety of pressure equipment -
as well as the lack of standardisation within WSEs - it’s impossible to give a simple answer to this question.

Why have a Written Scheme of Examination?

A WSE can cost anything from a hundred pounds to several thousands of pounds depending upon the type and complexity of equipment being examined – whether it’s a Minor, Intermediate or Major System and the schedule of parts included in the WSE.

While this may sound expensive, the costs of not having a WSE are far more severe. It’s the duty holder’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment. Not having an up to date scheme means that you have not properly inspected the safety of your equipment and you’ll be breaking the law under The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR). If a serious or fatal accident were to occur, which is possible due to the volatility of pressure equipment, you would be liable and could face prosecution and imprisonment under the Health and Safety Offences and Corporate Manslaughter Guidelines.

A compliant WSE is not just a compliance exercise, but a vital part in ensuring the safety of your plant and workers.


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Categorisation of pressure systems

The L122 Safety of Pressure Systems guidelines divide pressure systems into three categories:

  • Minor systems are small and present few engineering problems and include those
    containing steam, pressurised hot water, compressed air, inert gases or fluorocarbon
    refrigerants from 250bar/litre, e.g. Café boiler.
  • Intermediate systems include most storage systems and process systems that do not
    fall under either of the other categories, e.g. general steam systems/jacketed pan
  • Major systems require the highest level of expertise to inspect and include pressure
    systems with large, complex and hazardous contents, e.g. a power station/nuclear
    power station.

Although, in practice, there is no clear division between these categories, they indicate the size and complexity of different systems and the attributes and competencies required for a competent person to carry out an examination in accordance with the WSE.

According to SAFed’s Written Schemes of Examination guidelines, these categories are far from definitive and on some sites, every item should be judged on their own merits. This may be the case on complex plant sites, according to the guidelines “where the size of vessel and relevant fluid pressure may fit a lower category but the nature of the process and consequences of failure may require a greater level of engineering expertise”.

It is also possible where a pressure system is broken down into smaller sub-systems, that each sub-system be categorised individually.

These categorisations are important to consider, as the competent person chosen to perform the examination will need to have the specific skill, expertise, training and qualifications required for the complexities of each system.

In terms of cost, the category your pressure system falls into will have a huge impact. WSEs are priced per hour and larger intermediate and major systems can take several days, sometimes weeks, to examine - due to the schedule of parts and the scale of the equipment. The cost will also be increased depending on the engineer, as the competencies required are more specialist and will, therefore, require a more senior engineer whose time will be more expensive.

How do WSEs differ?

In addition to the hourly rate, the cost of a WSE will differ depending on its contents. There is no industry-wide standard for WSEs and not all of them contain the same information.

As a basic standard, a WSE will need to include pressure vessels and pressure release valves (PRVs). It would also detail what is required to carry out a suitable standard of inspection. It requires the name and signature of the competent person who performed the inspection and who reviews the Scheme. Without these details, it would not be compliant with PSSR.

More comprehensive WSEs can also include additional certification, diagrams and documentation providing further details on the equipment examined. While a comprehensive report would not make your business any more compliant, a thorough WSE can help the duty holder check they have done everything possible to ensure their pressure equipment is in full working order. This benefits business owners by ensuring a safe working environment and compliance to minimise the risk of an incident occurring.

What accreditations should an inspection supplier have?

There are a number of accreditations that indicate a pressure inspection supplier has the competencies required to provide a compliant WSE for all categories of pressure systems. One of the most significant accreditations to look for is UKAS ISO/IEC 17020, which demonstrates an inspection company’s dedication to safety compliance.

ISO 9001 is also important, as it indicates that suppliers are operating quality management systems that adhere to international standards. SAFed is the advisory body for engineering inspection and companies with SAFed membership are usually able to provide statutory and non-statutory equipment examinations to national legislation standards.

Other important accreditations and certifications include:

  • British Safety Council
  • Safe Contractor Certificate of Accreditation
  • RoSPA: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
  • CHAS: Contractors Health and Safety Assessment SSIP Scheme
  • FORS: Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme Gold Standard
  • NPORS: National Plant Operators Scheme
  • CIPS: Sustainability Index
  • Constructionline

While a WSE can be expensive, the cost of not having one is far greater. An experienced supplier is vital in ensuring you have a fully compliant WSE and a comprehensive examination will also help you achieve peace of mind when it comes to creating a safe working environment.

To make sure that you are completely ready your your inspection, download our completely free checklist on how to prepare for your PSSR inspections. 

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