Fulton’s aftercare and business development manager, Jeff Byrne, starts by talking about technical boiler house risk assessments, from their legalities to the potential savings that can be achieved. He strongly advises that all laundries with a steam boiler “have a technical risk assessment in place for its boilers and boiler house.” And he says this because “it is required by law under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and is necessary to comply with the requirements of the CEA and SAFed’s documents BG01, HSE INDG 436 and HSE INDG 417 Rev1, under which steam, or hot water plant, should be operated.” Beyond the legalities of the matter, Byrne cautions that a faulty steam boiler brings with it the risk of a steam explosion: “With significant stored energy, failure of steam – or pressurised hot water boiler plant – can produce a similar level of destruction and/or devastation as a bomb, potentially causing catastrophic damage, serious injury and possibly multiple fatalities.” He points out that with around 100 pressure vessel failures and at least one fatality per year in the UK, according to the HSE, “the importance of a technical boiler house risk assessment (TBHRA) cannot be overstated.”
In his view, a TBHRA is therefore essential for owners, operators and managers “to ensure that staff are aware of the risks and their responsibilities for the safe operation and management of industrial steam and hot water boiler plant.” He reckons, from experience, that it is also likely to be the first thing a HSE inspector would ask to see in the event of an inspection.
All of this makes a TBHRA “a vital link in the safety chain” in the process of identifying risk and developing measures to mitigate against those risks, “thus,” as Byrne says, “ensuring the safety of all involved with the plant.” As he reiterates, “non-compliance with the law can result in substantial fines and the likelihood of a custodial sentence in the event of serious injury or a fatality.”
So, with the landscape set out, how does Fulton approach TBHRAs? In answer, Byrne says that Fulton’s method with the TBHRA “is to take a very collaborative approach with clients and use only experienced steam boiler and steam system engineers with over 60 years’ knowledge of not just steam boilers, but steam, water and condensate systems.” As he describes the process, the “highly-experienced team” will scrutinise and photograph every area of risk and will produce a full report proposing and prioritising mitigation measures. This will give owners, operators and managers reassurance “that their plant may be operated safely and that all relevant guidance and legislation is supported once any identified hazards are rectified.”
As to what a typical TBHRA finds, Byrne notes that unlike a vehicle MOT, a TBHRA does not pass or fail a steam system, but instead highlights hazards and the potential risk and then proposes measures to rectify any issues.
He refers to INDG 436 which says that “a risk assessment does not need to include excessive detail”. That said, in his experience, issues that are found often include many potential points of failure such as – boiler specification, location, operation and condition, poor record keeping, lack of suitable/ relevant training or trained operator absence cover, shortage of plant drawings and manuals, control system reliability, ventilation issues, poor/no suitable operational procedures, and water quality issues to name but a few. Once Fulton’s assessment is completed and delivered, Byrne says that there is no commitment by the customer to involve the company in any post-assessment remedial works. But he says that “the document will highlight areas of a steam system that requires attention and will prioritise the risk they pose from high priority (red) to lower priority (green).” He adds that Fulton’s assessment must also be made available to the boiler operator and, in the event of the sale of equipment, the new owner or operator.
Another point worth noting by Byrne is that a TBHRA “is a live document that should be updated on an ongoing basis when any changes or modifications affecting the operation of a boiler occurs.” This, he says, can include personnel changes, additional training, physical changes including boiler and burner upgrades, legislation amendments and so on. In a note of comfort, Byrne says that Fulton can offer support to a customer once the TBHRA has been completed, or during or after the annual review; this support can be provided onsite or via telephone or video conference assistance once the review is completed.
In summary, Byrne reckons that a TBHRA “offers excellent value for money because it not only highlights areas of potential risk for owners, operators and managers, but can also identify where enhancements to the steam system could lead to improved energy efficiency.” Consider, that the cost to replace an old, inefficient or dangerous burner could easily be offset within a few years by the fuel savings achieved through the upgrade. Add in the legal risks of non-compliance and it’s a ‘no-brainer’.