Pressure equipment that is not manufactured, repaired, modified, operated and maintained correctly can be extremely dangerous, particularly to a plant’s operating personnel and to the public, as the system failure of pressure equipment can result in significant bodily damage to those who are located nearby, warns nonprofit technical organisation the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) executive director Jim Guild.
“Manufacturers and users of pressure equipment have to ensure compliance with local pressure equipment regulations (PER), if the equipment falls within the remit of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), No 85 of 1993. The inspection requirements included in the regulations and its supporting standards provide for these activities to be performed by appropriately certified inspectors working for approved inspection authorities (AIA),” Guild says.
He adds that the South African Qualification and Certification Committee (SAQCC) competent persons (CP) and inspector of pressurised equipment (IPE) certification committees award accreditation to inspectors with the authority of the Department of Labour (DoL).
Guild points out that CP inspectors are responsible for the plant’s 36-month inspection, and for the testing of the plant’s equipment, which is in service.
“Inspectors of pressurised equipment perform inspection and testing during the manufacture, repair or modification of pressure equipment. The inspectors do not work as individuals and must work for inspection bodies approved by the DoL.
“There are two categories of inspection bodies, namely an approved inspection authority and an approved inspection authority in-service (AIA-IS). The former are approved for new construction, repair or modification of equipment and the latter are approved of for in-service inspection. However, some AIAs are approved for both categories of inspection and test,” he states.
Industry-based committees, such as the SAQCC CP and the SAQCC IPE committees form part of the structures of the SAIW’s certification department, which requires that their activities be monitored by the Department of Trade and Industry’s national accreditation body the South African National Accreditation System, which is South Africa’s sole member of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).
The IAF is the global association of conformity assessment accreditation bodies and other bodies interested in conformity assessment in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment.
Its primary function is to develop a single global programme of conformity assessment, which reduces risk for business and its customers by assuring them that accredited certificates may be relied upon. Accreditation assures users of the competence and impartiality of the body accredited.
SAQCC CP Inspectors
Meanwhile, Guild says an AIA-IS must use SAQCC CP certified inspectors to perform the regulatory in-service testing of equipment, which falls within the remit of the OHSA and PER and is classified as category II, or higher, in terms of the SANS 347:2012 standard for the categorisation and conformity assessment criteria of all pressure equipment.
“The user may perform the in-service inspection and test of category I equipment without the involvement of an AIA-IS but is expected to appoint suitably qualified and experienced personnel to undertake the work,” he states.
Guild adds that the CP inspector may be certified for either pressure vessels, or steam generators as well as for both types of equipment.
“To achieve CP certification candidate inspectors are required to attend and undertake training courses designed to impart knowledge of the types of deterioration that equipment in service can suffer,” he says.
Additionally, Guild points out that candidate inspectors are required to complete a supervised period of practical experience working on the type of equipment for which they are seeking certification.
“The minimum practical experience period varies between one and five years according to the candidate’s education and trade skill levels,” he adds.
Moreover, Guild points out that the SAQCC CP certification system for pressure vessel inspectors has for a number of years included certification categories with a limited scope of application.
“Certification with limited scope is intended to facilitate application of the regulations in specific industry areas, such as manufacturing. Certification with a limited scope restricts the scope of activity of the inspector to air receivers, typically used as buffer storage vessels in a compressed air system, or autoclaves, typically used in medical laboratories, or accumulators, which are used as pressure storage devices in a range of engineering applications, such as for the refilling of compressed gas cylinders,” he says.
Further, Guild notes that inspectors with limited scope of certification may not perform work outside of their stated category II work scope, or higher.
“Inspectors that operate outside their scope of certification can be held accountable by a court of law if they breach this restriction,” he warns.
Moreover, Guild says that inspectors aiming for the unlimited scope of certification required for general industry work on pressure vessels have to undertake a longer training course, which includes a four-week process plant module.
“The same requirement for a supervised period of practical experience applies but practical training should take place on a wide range of equipment,” he adds.
However, Guild states that the SAQCC CP certification system, for steam generator inspectors, does not have categories of limited scope of certification.
“Applicants for steam generator certification are only required to show that they have worked on a variety of steam generators,” he says.
Inspectors of Pressure Equipment
Meanwhile, Guild says that an AIA uses SAQCC IPE inspectors to perform the surveys required by the relevant health and safety standard (code of construction) for new fabrications, repairs or modifications of pressure equipment.
“The IPE inspectors must undertake a series of training courses to equip them with the knowledge required for their job function and, irrespective of their education level, they must complete a supervised practical training period of at least two years.
“The certification of IPE inspectors has, until now, not included provision for a limited scope of work. This is about to change, owing to requests from industry that the SAQCC IPE introduce a limited scope of certification only covering piping. This is intended to assist manufacturers and inspection companies working with piping and pipelines as a core business. Piping is now included in the definition of pressurised equipment in the local vessels under pressure regulations and is included in the definition of pressure equipment in the current PER,” he highlights.
Moreover, Guild notes that the manufacture, repair or modification of piping requires the involvement of an IPE working under the auspices of an AIA.
He says that the details of the requirements for certification are currently being finalised and will be published on the SAIW website soon.
“Applications for certification will be accepted from October 1 and existing SAQCC IPE inspectors are unaffected as their unlimited scope of certification allows them to work on pressure vessels, steam generators and piping,” Guild concludes.