Under Pressure: Education is needed for pressure plant awareness
- Posted by Jade
- On July 20, 2015
- 0 Comments
Most inspection bodies around Australia will be familiar with comments from clients about their requirements for items of pressure plant. ‘Oh I didn’t know that’, ‘It has to be registered?’ ‘I don’t know if we do that’, ‘No one told me that when I bought it’.
It’s not unusual to get an urgent inspection request as a SafeWork Assessor has informed the owner the vessel must be registered and inspected immediately or face paying a sizable fine.
The truth is, many owners and operators of pressure plant items don’t know the requirements laid out by various Australian Standards and the Work Health and Safety Act 2012. Under the WH&S Act items of pressure plant require commissioning, routine inspection and maintenance to ensure safety in operation, and registration with SafeWork.
The Australian and New Zealand Standard for in-service inspection of pressure equipment (AS/NZS 3788:2006) complements and contributes to the Duty of Care requirements already laid out by WH&S. As well as describing technical methods and instructions, the document specifies, “there shall be a management system sufficient to ensure the continuing integrity and safety of items of pressure equipment”. This responsibility is placed squarely on the owner.
On top of that, the Australian Standard for hazard levels in pressure equipment (AS 4343:2014) has recently been updated, changing the methods and parameters for calculating hazard levels.
Understandably, it’s a lot to get your head around.
This unawareness can have devastating consequences however, as it has in the past. In 2008 for example, a tanker exploded in Broome, causing the deaths of two men who were unloading the vessel. Two companies were fined $140,000 in total and the court heard the tanker had not been registered with WorkSafe or inspected by a competent person in years, and therefore was not maintained in a safe working condition. This tragedy could have been avoided had those responsible for the vessel understood the risks involved with an incompliant item of plant.
Pressure plant items store large amounts of energy, as its contents are under pressure higher than atmospheric conditions. The higher the operating pressure and the bigger the vessel, the more energy released in the event of a rupture. The explosive potential of a 120-litre hot water tank for example, would have enough force to send a car rocketing 38 metres into the air with a lift-off velocity of 130 kilometres per hour. Such explosive power equates to about 7 grams of nitroglycerine.
How to we manage such a massive force? With education.
The first step is understanding the hazard potential of an item of pressure plant, and the importance of auditing, inspection and maintenance. Business owners should be aware of their liabilities and the consequences of an incompliant item of plant, and managers, supervisors and operators should all have an understanding of the related WH&S and Standard regulations.
Those with responsibility for an item of plant should be able to answer a series of questions, beginning with: do you have a Manufacturer Data Record (MDR) for the vessel? Is the vessel inspected periodically by a competent person, according to AS/NZS 3788:2006? Has the vessel undergone any repairs and if so, were they approved by an authorised person, and recorded in the MDR?
Training in pressure vessel awareness would ensure those in a position of responsibility know all the important questions, and of course their answers.
An owner’s duty of care is an impetus to ensure these questions are answered, as the owner of the plant item is ultimately responsible for the vessel and ensuring staff follows safety procedures and industry standards.
When the familiar comment of ‘I didn’t know about that’ becomes active knowledge and awareness from all pressure vessel owners and operators, we can be sure of compliant and safe work places.