Pressure systems

Whenever any substance is contained under pressure there is a potential danger from sudden release of the stored energy.  To combat this, regulations on safe design and use of pressure systems have long been in place within the UK .  Currently, regulations on pressure systems cover all use of steam where this is contained at any pressure above atmospheric pressure.  This includes use of small systems such as pressure cookers as well as larger items such as autoclaves and steam boilers. Other items containing gas, vapour or liquefiable gases are subject to the regulation where the pressure within the system exceeds 0.5 bar above atmospheric pressure.  (This includes many laboratory gas distribution systems, including cylinder manifolds, air compressors/receivers etc.. See also “Compressed gases”.)  Some hot water systems where water is contained at high temperature are also included.  Detailed requirements can be found within the Approved Code of Practice to the regulations.

In essence, the requirements are that all systems must be properly designed, constructed, installed and operated within pre-determined safe operating limits. Usually these should be marked on the system.  A system for regular maintenance must be in place to ensure that all systems remain in good condition.  In addition to the maintenance system a system for periodic thorough examination of the equipment by a specialist “competent person” must be in place.

Many of the building heating systems within the University fall within scope of these regulations and are dealt with by Estates and Buildings.  However, other management units also operate pressure systems or one sort or another and must make sure that these are appropriately designed and subject to suitable operation, maintenance, and examination regimes.  All units who operate pressure systems should ensure that they have an inventory of these systems and that these are operated in accordance with the regulations.

For some types of system (mainly air compressors and steam systems) the University has arranged for thorough examination by a specialist company (currently at no cost to individual units).  Access to the central register and to reports is available via SEPS.  Where more specialised systems are in use the management units in control of these will need to make appropriate local arrangements for maintenance and examination of these.  This will normally require the services of a specialist contractor.  Such systems will typically include liquified or compressed gas systems.