You and your Boilerhouse

Published:  05 June, 2014

Why in many organisations is the boilerhouse often overlooked? It is just there, and it keeps producing steam or hot water and only when it stops or it affects production do people take an interest. Boilers are seen as a service to production, often very little consideration is given to the equipment or the people who look after and maintain them. PWE reports.

The UK boiler safety standards have improved over many years, such that only a small number of incidents are reported to the HSE each year. However there are underlying incidents in the background that are never publically aired through the fear of prosecution or the lack of knowledge.

Serious accidents do often result in prosecution, not only for the company, but the managers and individuals involved. People often feel they can be immune from prosecution if they don’t report an incident, or they may operate in certain sectors where, incorrectly, they believe they still have Crown Immunity.

However there are signs that this may be changing as more and more businesses are feeling the impact of higher fuel prices and the security of energy supply, which is driving the need to improve energy efficiency. EU legislation and the UK Government commitment to environmental issues and emission reductions is driving change across all industrial sectors.

Many people who have the responsibility for looking after the boilerhouse are often under pressure to keep the boilers fully operational, others are often unaware of significant health and safety issues associated with running the boilers. If boilers are operated properly together with a good maintenance regime, then many good years of trouble free service will follow.

Steam is a terrific medium to distribute heat economically and gives up its heat readily at the point of use. Returning the condensate reduces your operating costs significantly as it retains the residual heat and the chemicals. However operating your steam system incorrectly can be very costly and potentially dangerous.

To try and help those working in industry and service sectors understand what it needs to do to comply with the law and incoming EU Directives, The Combustion Engineering Association (CEA) and the Safety Assessment Federation (Safed) together with the HSE, looked at the issues of automation in the boilerhouse. As a result the HSE revoked the old PM5 document which had been in place for many years. It has been replacing with a new industrial guidance document, INDG 436, “Safe Management of Industrial Steam and Hot Water Boilers” supported by a more in-depth technical guide BG01 “Guidance on Safe Operation of Boilers” written collectively by all three organisations.

These two documents have now been generally adopted as industrial best practice, but it can bring with it certain misunderstanding by the reader.

In BG01 there are several arrangement drawings of boiler plant, with automation, and control measures related to manning levels adopted. In the document it shows “typical arrangement” drawings, people are confusing a typical arrangement believing this is prescriptive.

There are various ways of achieving the correct level of automation for your boiler plant based on your chosen manning level. CEA would suggest there are five manning options to meet the requirements of BG01, and all of this is addressed through a “Boilerhouse Technical Risk Assessment” a legal requirement. The five suggested manning level options associated with boilers under BG01 are:

1. Fully manned with a trained competent operator = Very little automation is required

2. Unmanned but there is a trained competent boiler operator on site at all times while the boilers are operating, who will respond to audible and visual alarms immediately = The need for automation is slightly higher than item 1 above, though not significantly so.

3. Unmanned with a trained competent boiler operator attending the boilers daily = The level of automation required is much higher for this scenario and there is a requirement for a trained person to attend the boilers in the event of an alarm.

NB. This person need not be a boiler operator but must have enough training to be able to ensure the boilers have shut down safely (Often it is site security staff who have been trained to hit the red emergency stop button on the safety circuit) and then be able to call out a trained competent boiler operator.

4. Unmanned with a trained competent boiler operator attending the boilers daily = When the boiler operator is not on site then the boilers are monitored from a remote centre who have the ability to call out the operator. The level of automation for this is the same as for item 5 below for 72 hour operation, and all controls must be high integrity and self-checking.

5. Unmanned where the trained competent boiler operator visits every 72 hours. The extra requirement to allow this 72 hour operation is automatic blow down, TDS automatic monitoring and blow down, water treatment plant monitoring and extra monitoring on the hotwell, but the level of actual boiler controls is as above for 24 hour operation.

The need for risk assessments as a legal requirement does not in itself address the issues within industry. The lack of knowledge and current skill levels together with the uncertainty of how to undertake the assessment, all contribute to none compliance with the law.

Over 60% of delegates at recent CEA conferences indicated from the feedback they would like help in fulfilling the risk assessment, and to fully understanding the implications.

The CEA has responded by organising two different conferences, led by industry experts to explain clearly how to implement BG01. Building on the very successful BG01 conferences, the CEA are launching a further conference to cover Boilerhouse Technical Risk Assessment and Risk Management.

Four conferences are to be held in June and July and will be:

Two conferences - Explaining how to implement INDG 436 and BG01.

Two conferences – Covering the Boilerhouse Technical Risk Assessment,

Please note that both conferences are being delivered on consecutive days at the same two venues, this will also include 20 trade exhibitors who will be on hand to assist you:

The first conferences will be at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel on the 18thand19th June 2014.

The second conferences take place at the Manchester Hallmark Hotel on the 16th and 17th July 2014.

For further information please visit: www.cea.org.uk

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