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Training a priority for new boiler guidance

Guidance on the safe operation of boilers finally caught up with changing technology with the publication on 25 October of the Guidance on the Safe Operation of Boilers (BG01).

Drafted by the Combustion Engineering Association (CEA), the Safety Assessment Federation (SAFed) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), BG01 runs in parallel with the Health and Safety Executive’s Safe Management of Industrial Steam and Hot Water Boilers (INDG436),which was published on the same day.

The arrival of BG01 will be more significant than INDG436 for most people working day-to-day with boilers, as it gives very specific advice about how to achieve the aims laid out in the HSE document.

BG01 replaces the old PM5 and PSG2 guidance notes from the HSE and SAFed respectively. Rapidly evolving control technology was one of the big drivers for changing the guidance. PM5 didn’t take account of the increasing computerisation of boiler controls, so it had to be revised.

Remote access is another good example of how technology has moved on. In theory you could have someone with a laptop in Welwyn Garden City controlling a boiler plant in Manchester, which would have been unthinkable when PM5 was formulated.

The updated advice has been a long time coming and the process has not always gone smoothly. For example, several years ago an inability to agree led to SAFed unilaterally publishing its own PSG2 guidelines.

So what does the new regime mean for people working with steam and hot water boilers?

In terms of equipment, it’s the wider range of control options that probably marks the biggest change. In terms of making sure that personnel are up to scratch, it’s the minimum recommended qualifications that come under scrutiny.

For BG01, correct training of boiler operators and managers is essential. The document even names a specific qualification for the first time. It recommends that personnel should be qualified under the Boiler Operation Accreditation Scheme (BOAS), with Certified Industrial Boiler Operator (CertIBO) training for operators and a Diploma in Boiler Plant Operation Management (DipBOM) for managers.

The new document is not compulsory. BG01 - like PM5 before it - is guidance, not legislation. But with the weight of the HSE behind it, you’d need a pretty good reason not to follow the best advice around.

It’s a great way for steam-using organisations to show regulators and insurers that they’re committed to best practice. Furthermore, operating a boiler safely and efficiently can boost productivity and cut energy consumption, keeping costs down.

So there is a range of benefits on offer for boiler operators that comply with BG01. Ultimately, however, the biggest reward is a safer working environment.

Roger Glassonbury is UK customer training manager for Spirax Sarco