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Personnel certification in non-destructive testing (PCN) scheme fraud

Health and Safety Executive - Safety Alert
Department Name: Chemicals, Explosives and Microbiological Hazards Division
Bulletin No: CEMHD 1 - 2018
Issue Date: 6th July  2018
Target Audience:

Manufacturers and users of primary containment systems typically employed in the storage, production or transfer of hazardous materials (e.g., flammables / toxics, etc.) within the following sectors;

  • Oil and Gas (onshore / offshore)
  • Chemical processing and production
  • Nuclear
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing (general)
  • others
Key Issues:

The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) recently discovered a fraud that had been perpetrated by a PCN-Authorised Qualifying Body (AQB) operating in India and elsewhere.

This resulted in BINDT requiring over 3000 PCN certificate holders (mostly working in the oil & gas sector in the Middle East region) to submit to re-examination if they wished to reacquire their PCN certification.

This Notice aims to bring the above situation to the attention of duty holders who may be affected (e.g., via equipment importation) and to provide advice on recommended actions.

Background

The  British  Institute  of  Non-Destructive  Testing (BINDT) administer a widely accepted certification scheme for operator competence, the Personnel Certification in Non-Destructive Testing (PCN) system.  Certification is given for traditional and more recently introduced testing techniques, and the scheme is accredited by the United Kingdon Accreditation Service. In  June  2017, BINDT  took  action  to correct  a fraud  that  had  been  perpetrated  by NDT  International  PTE  Ltd  (NDTI),  a  PCN-Authorised Qualifying Body (AQB) operating in India and elsewhere.

This affected the AQB, its managers and all PCN certificate holders that had acquired certificates through examinations conducted by NDTI. In all, over 3000 PCN certifcate holders were affected; with most working in the oil and gas sector in the Middle East.

As a result, NDT International PTE Ltd’s Approved Training Organisation (ATO) and  Authorised Qualifying Body (AQB) status was withdrawn at a number of locations and sites. BINDT also required the affected PCN certificate holders (mostly working in the oil & gas sector in the Middle East region) to submit to re-examination if they wished to reacquire their  PCN  certification.

BINDT subsequently indicated that, on 26 December 2017, all certificates affected by the NDT International PTE Ltd situation that were not successfully re-examined or granted an extension were withdrawn.

Potential risk to plant integrity

When applied in a plant manufacturing environment, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) is used to provide confidence that there are no defects of concern over a certain size, which may have been introduced by the manufacturing process. In service NDT provides confidence that the operation of the plant is not causing deterioration in its integrity, beyond its design parameters.

The purpose of a PCN certificate is to provide some assurance of conformity to international standards of proficiency in NDT and is part of a demonstration of competency. Where such certificates have been obtained fraudulently, the proficiency of the NDT technicians involved is clearly uncertain.

The fraudulent activity identified by BINDT relates primarily to NDT technicians operating in India and the Middle East however, equipment manufactured and tested in such locations could potentially have been imported and installed on UK sites. In addition, it is feasible that the in-service examination and NDT of existing equipment on UK sites could have been completed by technicians (e.g., third-party contractors) fraudulently certified by NDTI.

Such occurrences may have implications for equipment integrity, where NDT is used to assure initial or ongoing integrity of equipment items, including primary containment systems employed in the storage, production or transfer of hazardous materials (e.g., on major hazard establishments, etc.). In particular, the failure to detect critical or significant defects during initial or in-service examination could potentially result in structural or plant failure and subsequent loss of containment.

Integrity assurance

The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 (COMAH) state that every operator must take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and to limit their consequences for human health and the environment, and apply to onshore major hazard establishments. Guidance on the COMAH Regulations is provided in HSE publication L111 [1], which states that the physical integrity of plant and equipment must be considered at all stages from design through construction to operation and maintenance.

The Pressure Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 (PE(S)R) cover a wide range of pressure equipment such as, reaction vessels, pressurised storage containers, heat exchangers, shell and water tube boilers, etc.  PE(S)R includes general duties relating to the placing on the market, importation and putting into service of pressure equipment; including the adoption of a suitable construction standard (which would include checks using NDT).

The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR) cover the safe design and use of pressure systems onshore.  Where a defect may give rise to danger, these Regulations require the periodic examination of the equipment by a competent person.  HSE’s PSSR Approved Code of Practice [2] states that the competent person is responsible for all examinations; including NDT undertaken by another person or body.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) require employers to ensure that equipment provided for use in the workplace is suitable, by design, construction or adaptation, for the actual work it is provided to do. HSE’s PUWER Approved Code Of Practice [3] indicates that, where it is possible that work equipment is exposed to conditions that could cause it to deteriorate, it must be inspected regularly.  This could potentially include NDT.

The Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995 state that the duty holder shall take appropriate measures with a view to protecting persons on the installation from fire and explosion and securing effective emergency response. Guidance on the PFEER Regulations 1995 is provided in HSE publication L65 [4], which states that plant and equipment on offshore installations provided to comply with PFEER may also be subject to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER); including the inspection requirements previously described.

Reccomended action

In consultation with their competent person, duty holders are advised to assure themselves that the integrity of equipment they own or operate is not adversely affected by the PCN fraud identified by BINDT.

Duty holders may wish to obtain NDT technician details (PCN number, etc.) by (for example);

The validity of PCN certificates may be checked via the resources provided on the BINDT website, i.e.;

Relevant legal documents

References

  1. Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015. Guidance on Regulations. L111 (3rd Edition) HSE October 2015
  2. Safety of Pressure Systems. Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000. Approved Code of Practice and guidance on Regulations.  L122 (2nd Edition) HSE 2014
  3. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Approved Code of Practice and guidance. L22 (4th Edition) HSE November 2014
  4. Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995.  Approved Code of Practice and guidance. L65 (3rd Edition) HSE 2016

Further information

Health and Safety Executive, Redgrave Court, Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside, L20 7HS.

General note

2018-07-06