Guiding you towards safer boilers

Jan 18, 2012 | Heat Transfer

The publication of the Guidance on the Safe Operation of Boilers (BG01) in October has highlighted the need for both operators and managers to have the right training. Roger Glassonbury, UK?customer training manager at Spirax Sarco, explains the new guidance in more detail

Guidance on the safe operation of boilers finally caught up with changing technology with the publication on 25th October of the Guidance on the Safe Operation of Boilers (BG01). Rapidly evolving control technology was one of the big drivers for changing the guidance, with BG01 replacing the old PM5 and PSG2 guidance notes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Safety Assessment Federation (SAFed) respectively.

“PM5 didn’t take account of the increasing computerisation of boiler controls, so it had to be revised,” said David Arnold, acting director of the Combustion Engineering Association (CEA). “Remote access is another good example of how technology has moved on. These days you could in theory have someone with a laptop in Welwyn Garden City controlling a boiler plant in Manchester. That would have been totally unthinkable when PM5 was drawn up.”

Drafted by the CEA, SAFed and the HSE, BG01 runs in parallel with the HSE’s Safe Management of Industrial Steam and Hot Water Boilers (INDG436).

Whereas INDG436 provides a high-level view of what steam operators should be aiming for, BG01 will have a bigger impact on most people working day-to-day with boilers, because it gives very specific advice about how to achieve the aims laid out in the HSE document.

“INDG436 does not give much guidance for a person working at the sharp end. It tells you what the regulators want but not how to do it,” explained Arnold. “Over the past three years, SAFed and the CEA have drawn up a more detailed guide to tell boiler operators and managers how to achieve those safety standards. HSE was also involved and fully endorses BG01.”

For people working directly with steam and hot water boilers, the new regime puts the spotlight on both equipment and personnel.

It’s the wider range of control options that probably marks the biggest change in terms of equipment. Advanced steam system controls promise major benefits, but only when personnel are properly trained to make the most of them. So for personnel, it’s the minimum recommended qualifications that are beefed up in the new document.

There are a number of boiler- and steam-related courses available at various levels, but BG01 recommends that operators and managers achieve the national industry standards through the following qualifications:

• Certified Industrial Boiler Operator (CertIBO) for operators.

• Diploma in Boiler Plant Operation Management (DipBOM) for managers.

Both of these qualifications are part of the Boiler Operation Accreditation Scheme (BOAS). “Over 1,000 candidates have already completed BOAS training with Spirax Sarco and other providers,” said Arnold.

According to Chris Coleman, training and development engineer at Spirax Sarco, the BOAS training requirements are not especially onerous for people who already have some experience of working with boilers. He said:“We offer a four-day BOAS-accredited course for boiler operators and managers that provides the necessary qualifications to cover participants for five years, after which a refresher is required.”

Proper training can save money for boiler owners and operators, as well as improving safety. Coleman continued: “Any initial outlay will soon be repaid in a typical steam installation. Properly operated steam boilers provide a safe and efficient way of moving energy around. Complying with the new advice will not only improve the safety of boiler operations, but knowing the best ways to operate and maintain a steam system is the key to improving efficiency, boosting productivity and reducing costs.”

Operating a boiler plant in line with the latest advice is also a way to demonstrate to regulators and insurers that you’re committed to adopting best practice and have appropriately trained personnel. However, BG01 is guidance, rather than a legal requirement.

“This guidance is not set in stone like a law, but if you ever end up in court and the judge asks if you followed the best available advice and you didn’t, it doesn’t look good,” said Arnold. In addition, the new guidance hasn’t come up in court yet, but it’s perfectly possible for guidance around safety-related best practice to be progressively transformed into a de facto legal requirement once case law has been established.

Insurers are also keen for steam system operators to demonstrate an appropriate level of care, and BG01 is a great way to deliver it.

The biggest reward for complying with BG01 is improved safety, but steam system operators can expect a range of benefits if they opt to follow the best advice.

Recognising the importance of training to UK customers, Spirax Sarco has recently made a significant investment in its training facilities in Cheltenham with the opening of the UK Steam Technology Centre. Said to be the only training facility in the UK with a fully operational steam system with SCADA?control, the revamped centre offers a variety of training courses to help steam system operators address key issues.