When operating any type of pressure equipment, it is essential to ensure compliance with the relevant health and safety regulations. These regulations include Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR) and Pressure Equipment Directive (PED), which are both in place to ensure the safety of people within your plant. 


In this blog we will look at these regulations, considering why compliance is important, and who is responsible for ensuring the safety of pressure equipment. 

 

Why is pressure equipment compliance important?

Compliance with the above regulations is not just a tick box exercise - pressure systems can be a serious safety concern. The consequences of not being compliant are immense, as any leaks in a compressed gas or steam system could lead to an explosion, with even a small air receiver potentially causing serious and fatal accidents if it were to explode. 

That’s why compliance is so important - as regular examinations are vital in ensuring that potentially dangerous equipment is well maintained and in full working order.  

Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of pressure systems that have caused major accidents due to not following regulations. One of the most famous incidents of this nature occurred at the Nypro (UK) site at Flixborough in 1974, where 28 workers were killed, and a further 36 suffered injuries. The incident was attributed to plant modification occurring without a full assessment, with no pressure testing carried out on the installed pipework modification, which ruptured leading to an explosion. 

In this instance, the modification took place so that the plant could continue production after a problem was found in one of the reactors. Often, accidents like this can happen due to a lack of understanding of the potential risks involved in pressure equipment, and safety can be compromised due to the financial implications from a loss of production, as well as insufficient training.

A lack of compliance, however, can be far more costly to companies and duty holders. As well as the damage caused by an explosion, duty holders would be liable under the Health and Safety Offences and Corporate Manslaughter Guidelines, and could face prosecution and imprisonment. 

Even if nobody is injured during an explosion, replacing equipment can be time-consuming and expensive, with plants having to shut down until the new equipment arrives. 

 

What regulations does pressure equipment fall under?

As mentioned at the start of this blog, pressure equipment falls under two main regulations: PSSR and PED. 

PED is less relevant to plants and engineering businesses, as, according to HSE, it is concerned mainly with the manufacturing of and “putting into service of pressure equipment and assemblies”. PED, therefore, regulates the build and manufacturing process of pressure equipment. 

PSSR, conversely, covers the safe design and use of pressure systems, and is aimed for users, owners and competent persons who are involved with pressure systems used at work. This regulation is often misunderstood by duty holders, but is essential to ensure compliance. According to the L122 Safety of Pressure Systems: “The aim of PSSR is to prevent serious injury from the hazard of stored energy (pressure) as a result of the failure of a pressure system or one of its component parts”. 

The guidelines divide pressure systems into three categories: minor, intermediate, and major. While there is no clear dividing lines in practice between these categories, they provide an indication of the range of systems covered by PSSR, and the different competencies required for each. Here is an overview of these three pressure system categories:

  • Minor systems include those containing steam, pressurised hot water, compressed air, inert gases or fluorocarbon refrigerants which are small and present few engineering problems. Pipelines are not included in this category. 
  • Intermediate systems include most storage systems and process systems that do not fall under either of the other categories. Pipelines are included, unless they fall into the major system category. 
  • Major systems include pressure systems with large, complex and hazardous contents that require the highest level of expertise to inspect and examine. Pipelines are included if the pressure-volume product is greater than 105 bar litres. 

In addition to PED and PSSR, in 2016 the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy released the Pressure Equipment (Safety) Regulations after the EU referendum. These regulations address those that were covered in the Pressure Equipment Directive (PED), which is a European regulation.  

 

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Who is the duty holder?

The duty holder is responsible for compliance under PSSR. While the duty holder is ultimately the business owner or Chief Executive, the person who operates the equipment is also responsible for its safe operation. 

The duty holder can be a nominated person, which would be done by the business owner in writing. This would not exclude the owner from prosecution in the event of an accident, as they are ultimately responsible for creating a safe working environment under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The nominated duty holder, however, would have the responsibility to ensure that all equipment is run safely and within procedures by operators with appropriate qualifications, skills and knowledge.

It is also the responsibility of the duty holder to make sure regular inspections are taking place and that pressure equipment is compliant. This is achieved through a Written Scheme of Examination for the equipment, which will specify inspection intervals and what maintenance (if any) needs to be undertaken to ensure the equipment is safe. 

Inspection intervals vary depending on the equipment in question and the body that has undertaken inspection. Examination can be required 12-monthly, every two years or even across 5-10 year intervals. However often this occurs, it is vital that any inspection is carried out by a ‘competent person’. 

According to HSE, the general responsibilities of a competent person in the context of pressure system inspection are as follows: 

  • Carrying out examinations in accordance with the Written Scheme of Examination (WSE)
  • Review the WSE and confirm it is suitable
  • Produce a written report for each examination
  • Notify the duty holder of repairs required
  • Identify action in case of imminent danger
  • Agree postponements of examination, where appropriate

When using a third party inspection supplier, the duty holder is also responsible for ensuring this body is deemed competent to the above guidelines. Working with a specialist and experienced supplier will help you achieve this regulation, and is vital in ensuring you create a safe working environment for your employees. 

To give you all the information you need to conduct your inspections efficiently and safely whilst maintaining compliance on your equipment, we've put together a completely free no-nonsense guide to your engineering inspections. You can download your free guide here. 

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