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Common Boiler Problems, Part 6: Training & Knowledge Gaps

Too many facilities assume training is something that happens on the job in an informal sense. To them, it’s information that gets passed on from one person to another over coffee or in between sports scores. There may have been more formal training years ago when the equipment was new. Now, maybe only half of those people are still around.

Codes offer very little specific direction regarding training other than to say training is absolutely required and that it should be done regularly. The ASME boiler code Section VII, Subsection C2 .110 says “safe and reliable operation (of boiler) is dependent … upon the skill and attentiveness of the operator or maintenance personnel. Operating skill implies knowledge of fundamentals, and a suitable background of training and experience. Regularly scheduled auto-manual changeover operation, and mock emergency drills to prevent loss of these skills are recommended” (ASME2004). This kind of training – particularly troubleshooting techniques and emergency mock drills are ignored in most training programs we have encountered, even though they are clearly among the most important things operators and maintenance staffs should understand.

NFPA 85, section 4.4.2, also identifies requirements for boiler operator and maintenance training (NFPA 85, 2004). This information is helpful, but again rarely ever finds its way into boiler operator training programs. Even more peculiar is that where boiler operator licensing is required, licensing exams have very little to do with fuel train safety or maintenance. Instead, these exams and the training for them focus almost exclusively on water level and pressure vessel issues.

It is important that operator training is comprehensive, consistent, practical in nature and formally applied. Don't rely on the assumption that skills and knowledge of veteran operators have simply been passed along. Can your facility afford the risk of learning the hard way?


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