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Plant Ageing Study

Between 1996 and 2008 it is estimated that there have been 173 loss of containment incidents reported in RIDDOR that can be attributable to ageing plant. This represents 5.5% of all loss of containment events. The limited information provided in RIDDOR about the underlying causes means that it is difficult to identify which events may be age related: the actual number could be much higher than that quoted here.

Across Europe, between 1980 and 2006, it is estimated that there have been 96 incidents reported in the MARS database relating to major accident potential loss of containment which are estimated to be due to ageing plant. This represents 28% of all reported ‘major accident’ loss of containment events in the MARS database and equates to an overall loss of 11 lives ,183 injuries and over 170Million € of economic loss.

As the MARS data provides the more detailed and comprehensive insight into the incidents and causal factors and is specifically related to potential major accident hazard events, it is considered that this represents a more realistic indication of the extent and severity of ageing plant and its contribution to major accidents. This leads to the conclusion that ageing plant is a significant issue.

Onshore chemical plant in the UK is ageing. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) field inspectors often have to consider the Operators’ safety justification for continued use of ageing plant taking account of a variety of issues such as usage, design life, known research, known operational and failure history, maintenance and inspection history, etc. The issues also need to be considered against a background of increasing competition from overseas, and the pressure on resources and investment which this has had over recent years, with reductions in manning levels, early retirement of experienced staff, and pressure on operating budgets.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2011-05-03