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Enhanced Boiler and Pressure Vessel Regulatory Enforcement May Increase Fines and Penalties


Several US jurisdictions have adopted regulations permitting the issuance of monetary fines for violations of boiler and pressure vessel regulations. Other jurisdictions have drafted similar regulations that are awaiting approval. These monetary fines can range from hundreds of dollars to more than US$1000 per jurisdictional object for regulatory violations.

Many states and some cities issue certificates permitting the continued operation of certain equipment such as boilers, water heaters, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, etc. Statutory regulations require periodic inspections to renew the certificates of operation. Commissioned inspectors (CI), under the employ of an Authorized Inspection Agency (AIA, i.e., an insurance company), or inspectors employed by the jurisdictional authority are properly licensed to ensure compliance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code, National Board Inspection Code (NBIC), and individual jurisdictional requirements.

If you own or operate equipment that requires a certificate of inspection to operate legally, you need to take important steps to maintain regulatory compliance and mitigate the potential for fines.

Key Regulatory Compliance Steps

First, a planning process should surround a well-managed inspection program. This includes conducting a complete inventory of boilers and pressure vessels subject to inspection. The inventory list should be comprehensive and include, but not be limited to, information about each boiler or vessel:

  • Type.
  • Year.
  • Location.
  • Size.
  • Use.
  • Design criteria.
  • Overpressure protection data.
  • Certificate expiration date.

The inventory list may also include boilers and vessels that fall outside a regulatory inspection but are equally important from a safety, reliability, and mission-critical standpoint.

Second, obtain and maintain the original documentation such as system drawings, engineering files, and manufacturers’ data reports for each boiler and vessel. The manufacturers’ data reports are critical to identify all design criteria to complete a code repair or alteration.

Next, determine the steps required to prepare properly for the object inspection. This task may differ depending on equipment type and/or type of inspection required. Prioritize the object inspections based on certificate expiration date and allow sufficient resources to adequately prepare the equipment for a thorough and seamless inspection. Frequent communication and scheduling of inspections with your AIA is necessary to facilitate an on-time inspection. This will also allow sufficient time to correct any code violations so as to avoid civil penalties.

Finally, manage the change of service for boilers and pressure vessels. Safety must always take center stage when removing equipment from service or installing new equipment. The final installation will consider jurisdictional requirements; therefore, a CI should always be included in the planning stages. Jurisdictional notice from the AIA for removal and installation of new equipment subject to inspection is required. The management philosophy regarding equipment change must be appropriate to the circumstances; otherwise, the resultant loss to the vessel, surrounding property, and to human life could be tragic.

Global Codes and Regulations Governing Inspections

In North America, design and certification is governed by the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code or API Standard 620, which provides rules for lower pressure vessels not covered by the ASME Code in North America.

From an international perspective, codes may include the European Union’s Pressure Equipment Directive (PED), Japan’s Industrial Standard (JIS), Canada’s CSA B51, Australia’s Australian Standards, and other international standards like Lloyd’s, Germanischer Lloyd, Det Norske Ventas, and Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS S.A.).

US state codes vary with regard to the size of boilers and vessels subject to regulatory inspection. In addition, the frequency of required inspections varies from state to state.

However, by definition, a “boiler” is typically defined as “a closed vessel in which water or other liquid is heated, steam or vapor is generated, steam is superheated, or any combination thereof, under pressure or vacuum, for use external to itself, by the direct application of energy from the combustion of fuels, from electricity or nuclear energy.” This definition includes water heaters that exceed 200,000 Btu/hr heat input, 200 degrees Fahrenheit at the outlet, or 120 gallons nominal water containing capacity. Also included are fired units for heating or vaporizing liquids other than water where these units are separate from processing systems and are complete within themselves.

“Pressure vessels” are enclosed vessels or tanks used to store a liquid or gas under pressure. Typically these vessels are wide in scope and have a maximum internal or external allowable working pressure greater than 15 psig and/or an inside diameter, height, width, or cross-sectional diagonal exceeding six inches per ASME. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) i.e., propane, propylene, butane, and butylene) vessels and low temperature cryogenic vessels (i.e., liquid hydrogen, nitrogen, and helium) may be included depending on the installed location.

The Benefits of Inspection Program Planning and Implementation

The thought process of planning and implementing an inspection program for boilers and pressure vessels will help ensure compliance and alleviate potential civil fines. Programs will vary from one facility to another, but the basic ingredients are still similar. Because it can be a monumental task, the responsible individual should consider performing the program in phases and even concentrating the effort on individual systems for larger facilities to keep the program manageable. When developed and executed methodically, however, such a program allows for regular, timely, and cost-efficient inspection of critical systems and supports full compliance of jurisdictional regulations.

Additional Information