Pressure equipment

Many types of pressure equipment can be hazardous. These include steam boilers and associated pipework, pressurised hot-water boilers, air compressors, air receivers and associated pipework, autoclaves, gas (eg LPG) storage tanks and chemical reaction vessels.

When things go wrong, these types of equipment can cause serious injuries and even fatalities. However, assessing the risks and putting proper precautions in place will minimise the chances of any accidents occurring.

Case study

A company used a steam boiler in its manufacturing processes. An alteration to pipework inadvertently caused salty water to be introduced into the boiler.

The resulting build-up of scale caused its furnace to overheat and collapse internally, creating an explosion. This blew out the ends of the boiler house and the ejected boiler demolished an electrical substation hundreds of feet away before coming to rest.

How the accident could have been prevented

This accident could have been prevented by giving the maintenance staff correct information and instruction, and by adequately managing the maintenance operation.

As a result of the damage to the building, its contents and exterior damage, the company had to replace the boiler and rebuild the boiler house, with significant loss of production.

Why is pressure equipment safety important?

If a piece of pressure equipment fails and bursts violently apart, the results can be devastating to people in its vicinity.

Parts of the equipment could also be propelled over great distances, causing injury and damage to people and buildings hundreds of metres away.

What do I have to do?

Assess the risks

You need to assess the levels of risk when working with pressure equipment. The level of risk from the failure of pressure systems and equipment depends on a number of factors including:

Basic precautions

To reduce the risks you need to know (and act on) some basic precautions:

Written scheme of examination

A written scheme of examination is required for most pressure systems:

How can I do it?

Find out more

The law

The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 deal with the safe operation of a pressure system.

The Pressure Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1999 2016 deal with the design, manufacture and supply of pressure systems.

Updated 2022-09-06