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Common Boiler Problems, Part 8: Proper Documentation

Regardless of who does your equipment’s maintenance, another issue you must closely monitor is maintaining your documentation. This means panel drawings, switch set points, purge times, and even component model numbers and operational manuals. Many incidents have occurred from improper troubleshooting of problems because information was not readily available.

When assessing you site’s level of combustion equipment risk, remember the following:

  • Most of the explosions and fire incidents, by far, have been due to human error. All of the safeties and interlock equipment in the world won’t help if someone has bypassed or jumped-out safety controls. There is no possible substitute for proper training. Training has to include mock upset and hazard recognition drills. Your people need training even if you will have contractors heavily involved at your site.
  • Start-up and shutdown are your biggest risks. You need clearly written procedures that everyone understands and agrees with so that consistent safe practices are in place with every shift and every employee.
  • Make sure you do regular and complete interlock and fuel train valve tightness testing. Jurisdictional inspectors, even where they are mandated to be around, cannot be at your facility every day. Combustion equipment safety testing needs to be part of your organization’s culture regardless of what it costs and what the perceived hurdles are. You should comply with code requirements for testing even if some inspector is not forcing you to.
  • Create corporate guidelines for third party combustion equipment reviews and commissioning for newly acquired equipment or for major upgrades. Now that you see how little review and attention combustion equipment may receive from the time it’s specified to when it’s really operating, you may want a dedicated professional review of the design and what you are getting by a qualified experienced third party.
  • Upgrade equipment for safety’s sake. There’s no peace of mind in being “grandfathered”.

Proper documentation can mean the difference between efficient operation and potential disaster. It pays to audit procedural, compliance and equipment related materials and keep them in a known public place for easy access when needed. Do not wait for a problem and let attorneys dictate upgrades that need to happen because of a lawsuit. Do a gap analysis proactively and have a long-term plan to be compliant with the most recent codes.


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