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A. B. C. Introduction Existing Legislation Hazards and Their Control 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Pressure vessel rupture Common causes of explosions in pressure vessels Control measures Precautions for entering boilers and furnaces Safety in the use of boilers 5.1 5.2 5.3 D. Automatically controlled boilers Failure of automatic controls Training of boiler attendants
Safety in the Use of Air Vessels 1. 2. 3. 4. Air receiver Dynamic pressure hazards Excessive pressures from nonthermal sources Safeguards against air receiver explosion
E. F. G. H. I.
Whipping of Hoses and Lines Water Hammer Testing of Pressure System References Useful Addresses
Boiler and pressure vessels have many potential hazards in common, as well as hazards unique to their specific operations. These vessels hold gases, vapors, liquids, and solids at various temperatures and pressures, ranging from almost a full vacuum to pressures of thousands of pounds per square inch. In some applications, extreme pressure and temperature changes may occur in a system in rapid succession, imposing special strains. Major boilers and pressure vessels explosions, because of their spectacular nature. The problem is to ensure the integrity reliability throughout the working lives of all boilers and pressure vessels and, in the event of any defect occurring, to limit its damaging effects.
The existing legislation on pressure equipment in Hong Kong is covered by the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance Chapter 56. The ordinance requires all boilers, pressure vessels to be registered with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority. The following particulars shall be recorded by the Authority in the register of the boilers and pressure vessels in the respect of each registered boiler or pressure vessel: 1. the name and address of the owner for the time being of the boiler or pressure vessel; 2. except in the case of a boiler or pressure vessel that is design so as to be transportable from one place to another; the address at which the boiler or pressure vessel is installed; 3. the class or type of the boiler or pressure vessels; 4. the registration number of the boiler or pressure vessel; 5. the maximum permissible working pressure of the boiler or pressure vessel notified to him in a accordance with section 47 (2); 6. the maximum permissible working pressure of the boiler or pressure vessel specified in the current certificate of fitness issued in the respect of the boiler or pressure vessel if the pressure therein specified differs from the maximum permissible working pressure notified to him in accordance with section 47 (2) or entered in the register pursuant to paragraph (b); 7. the date on which each certificate of fitness issued in respect of the boiler or pressure vessel was issued; and 8. the making by the Authority of an order under section 32 in respect of the boiler or pressure vessel and the date (if any) on which the same ceased to be in force.
Definition • Boiler means any closed vessel in which for any purpose steam is generated under pressure greater than atmospheric pressure and also means any economizer used to heat water being fed into any such vessel, any superheater used for heating steam and any fitting directly attached to such vessel that is wholly or partly under pressure when steam is shut off, and any vessel in which oil is heated at a pressure greater than atmospheric pressure. Pressure Vessel means a steam receiver, an air receiver and a portable gas generator. Steam Receiver means any vessel or apparatus (other than a boiler, a steam container, a steam pipe or coil, or a part of a prime-mover ) used for containing steam under pressure great than atmospheric pressure; Steam Container means any vessel or apparatus (other than a steam pipe or coil) constructed with a permanent outlet into the atmosphere or into a space where the pressure does not exceed atmospheric pressure, and through which steam is passed at atmospheric pressure or at approximately that pressure for the purpose of heating, boiling, drying, evaporating or other similar purpose. Air Receiver means: a. any vessel (other than a pipe or coil, or a accessory fitting or part of a Compressor) for containing compressed air and which is connected with an air compression plant. b. any fixed vessel for containing compressed air or compressed exhaust gases that is use for the purpose of starting an internal combustion engine; c. any fixed or portable vessel (not being part of a spraying pistol) used for the purpose of spraying, by means of compressed air, any paint, varnish lacquer of similar material; and d. any pressurized fuel container. • Portable Gas Generator means a vessel, not being a part of a fixed installation, within which acetylene gas is generated by the admixture of calcium carbide and water.
C. Hazards and their Control
1. Pressure vessel rupture The rupture of a pressure vessel occurs when the total expansive force acting to cause the rupture exceeds the vessel’s strength. The process by which a boiler rupture occurs can be described as follows: when heat is applied to water in the boiler, its temperature increases to the boiling point, causing it to evaporate, and the steam to exert pressure. Generally the steam leaves the boiler and is replaced by new supplies of water. When the input of heat from the boiler equals that removed by the system flow, equilibrium is reached and pressure remains constant. If steam flow output is prevented or restricted so it is inadequate to remove all the excess heat supplied, the temperature
and pressure in the boiler will increase. If inadequate supplies of fresh water are not provided, any water vapor can turn to dry gas and then increase in pressure. If a safety device is not provided or is inadequate to limit gas pressure to safe value, the strength of the boiler might be exceeded, causing it to fail. In addition to explosion hazards, boilers may also present fire hazards.
Common causes of explosions in pressure vessels • • • • • • • • errors in design, construction, and installation corrosion or erosion of construction materials mechanical breakdown, failure, or blocking of automatic control devices failure to inspect thoroughly, properly, and frequently improper application of equipment lack of planned preventive maintenance inadequate training of operators human failure, such as lack of understanding, failure to follow safe operating procedures, lack of functional coordination
Control measures • • • • •
Establish a testing and servicing program in which operating controls, and safety
and relief valves are tested and maintained at regular intervals. To prevent damage to the valve seats, make sure that safety and relief valves are always tested under pressure (on the boiler ). Have repairs made immediately upon any indication of malfunction or leakage of operating controls, safety controls, or safety and relief valves. Never operate a boiler with a malfunctioning safety or relief valve. Have a service organization check and service the boiler. Keep a boiler log. This ensure that necessary tests, maintenance, and services are performed and that records are available. Keep these records because they will provide you with a historical profile of the boiler.
Precautions for entering boilers and furnaces General precautions for entering boilers include having proper ventilation, proper equipment, and proper protection. Observe rules for working in confined spaces. Implement a confined space permitting procedure. To make certain that no flammable atmosphere with a testing instrument before permitting anyone to enter. When cleaning a boiler, employees should wear hard hats, safety goggles, approved dust masks, and gloves. They should also wear protective footwear. Personnel working in confined areas should wear a lifeline and be kept under constant observation by a person.
Safety in the use of boilers
5.1 Automatically Controlled Boilers The function of automatic control equipment is to provide precise control over combustion and feed-water requirements in order to meet output fluctuations. The Ordinance requires a steaming boiler being always attended by a "Competent Person" in possession of a Certificate of Competency awarded for the type of boiler. It is essential, in the interest of safety of the boiler plant, that the operators are competent to carry out the normal duties in connection with such plants and it is the responsibility of the owners to ensure that operators employed by them are properly trained.
5.2 Failure of Automatic Controls The automatic controls failure is the most frequent cause of boiler failure than other damages. The automatic controls failure sometimes result in boiler overheating due to low water level, boiler explosion due to low water level, boiler explosion due to unburned oil vaporize to hydrocarbon gases inside the furnace and fusing of heating element of the electrically heated boilers.
5.3 Training of Boiler Attendants Many cases of damage arising from failure of automatic controls have been caused by lack of knowledge of controls on the part of the boiler attendants. Attendants with experience limited to manually controlled boilers may be unfamiliar with modern automatic boiler controls. Before they take charge of such boilers it is essential that they should be properly trained in the safe operation of such plant The action to be taken in emergencies and to carry out the tests set out.
D. Safety in the use of air vessels
1. Air receiver Compressed air is widely used in all industrial undertakings, e.g. pneumatic control systems and for various pneumatic tools and cleaning equipment etc. Compressed air are either arranged to run continuously since they are fitted with unloading devices to allow running light when desired supply line pressure is reached, or have pre-set cut in and cut out pressure switches. Supply of clean, dry compressed air is required from the well-designed, correctly installed and maintained air receivers. Any air receiver shall be examined by an appointed examiner within 26 months after the date of fitness issued.
Also it is contravention of the Boiler and Pressure Vessels Ordinance to "alter" the safety valve pressure set by the appointed examiners. Air pressure vessels inside buildings should not be located near sources of heat, such as radiators, boilers, or furnaces. For example, the vapor pressure of carbon dioxide is 835 psi at 70°F and 2530 psi at 140°F. Also, gas compression can cause an increase in temperature and very high pressures.
Dynamic Pressure Hazards The pressure in cylinders of compressed air, oxygen, or carbon dioxide are over 2000 psig when the cylinders are full. A large cylinder, such as that used for oxygen for oxyacetylene welding, will weigh slightly more than 200 pounds. The force or thrust generated by gas flowing through the opening left when a valve breaks off a cylinder can be 50 to 20 times greater than the cylinder weight. This can be compared to the propulsion system of a rocket or guided missile. Spectacular accidents have occurred when such charged cylinders were dropped or struck so the valve broke off. The cylinder would then take off, in some cases smashing through buildings, rows of vehicles, and creating the tremendous havoc that a heavy steel projectile traveling at high speeds can generate.
Excessive pressures from nonthermal sources A vessel or container can be overpressurized so it fails. The simplest example is the bursting of a child’s balloon. Practically all pressure vessel failures occur at flaws in the material where stresses are concentrated. If the flaw is serious enough, failure may occur at or below the normal operating pressure. If the vessel is overpressurized, it will fail at a weak point, where a flaw exists.
Safeguards against air receiver explosion The safeguards are: • • • Adequate cooling by provision of intercooler and aftercooler to restrict the operating temperature. Plant should be kept in good order; clean internally and externally and supplied with specially compounded compressor oil of the correct characteristics for the job. A suitable temperature fusible plug could be incorporated, designed to melt and blow at a temperature a little lower than the closed flash point of the lubrication oil - 180° C is usually appropriate it should allow an escape of air sufficiently large to give warning of approaching danger. Regular inspection will help to minimize the risk of a failure by detecting the symptoms at an early stage.
E. Whipping of Hoses and Lines
Whipping of flexible hoses can also generate injury and damage. In one instance, the end fitting of a compressed air line was not tightened adequately when the line was connected. The line separated when it was pressurized. It then began whipping about until it hit and killed a worker by crushing his skull.
Water hammer is caused by a sudden stoppage of liquid flow so a shock effect occurs which can cause the rupture of a line. The mass of liquid has momentum. If the flow is terminated abruptly by closing a valve at the downstream end of a line, the momentum of the liquid is transformed into a shock wave (water hammer) which is transmitted back upstream. The shock is transmitted back through the liquid because liquids are practically incompressible. The energy shock involved may be adequate to break fittings and lines, especially if they are made of brittle materials which do not stand shock well. To avoid damage to liquid lines, the use of quick-closing valves should be avoided. If they must be used, the shock can be alleviated by a suitable air chamber or accumulator connected to the lines slightly upstream of the valve.
G. Testing of Pressure System
Each pressure system should be tested prior to use, and pressure vessels should be tested periodically after that to determine their adequacy for continued service. Wherever possible, hydrostatic testing, using water and not a gas such as steam or compressed air, should be used. If the vessel being tested fails suddenly, the rapid expansion of gas might cause the rupture to be violent, possibly generating a blast wave with injury or damage. Hydrostatic testing, using water as a fluid, has two major advantages. Leaks created by pressurization of a vessel can be detected easily. The test can then be interrupted or continued with increased care. Because fluids expand little, in case of a vessel’s rupture, no shock wave will be generated.
• • • •
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance, Chapter 56, Printed and Published by the Government Printer, Hong Kong. Boiler and Pressure Vessels Regulations, Chapter 56, Subsidiary Legislation, Printed and Published by the Government Printer, Hong Kong. Boiler and Pressure Vessels (Forms) Order, Chapter 56, Subsidiary Legislation, Printer and Published by the Government Printer, Hong Kong. Code of Practice for Steam Receivers, Issued under Section 18A of the Boiler and Pressure Vessels Ordinance.
Occupational Safety Management and Engineering, 4th Edition, Willie Hammer.
• • Labour Department, Pressure Equipment Division, 17/F Harbour Building, 38, Pier Road, Central, Hong Kong. Occupational Safety & Health Council, 14th Floor, L&D House, 2-4 Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
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