Boiler is an important utility in factories. It is used to generate steam. The generated steam is distributed through pipes to feed various equipment in the factory. Poorly maintained boilers can be a potential source of serious accidents. There are several examples of boiler explosion and loss of lives and assets. In a recent boiler explosion in a South Asian country, several floors of a garment factory collapsed, killing about 200 workers.
Boilers vary in size, capacity and technology. Smallest boilers are portable and pose a limited risk. Very large boilers have potentially greater risk if not handled appropriately. Thus, factories deploying smaller boilers will need basic and simple measures to ensure safety. However, factories using large boiler plants will require extensive safety procedures.
The code of conduct requires proper running and maintenance of boilers. The local law in most countries provides for specific guidelines with regard to boilers. Local regulations may require factories to obtain a license for large capacity boilers.
Boiler operating hazards and Preventive Measure
It is important to follow the manufacturers’ instructions, local boiler safety rules and regulations to avoid accidents from boilers. Neglecting safety in boiler operation can lead to loss of lives and assets. The table below provides a very general guideline of possible hazards associated with boiler operation. The manufacturers’ manual should be referred for safe operation of aspecific equipment.
Fig. 5: Preventive Measure For Boiler Safety
Additional measures for boiler safety compliance
Boiler licence, manual and log
- Obtain a boiler licence if the local law requires it.
- Keep manufacturers’ safety manual for all equipment accessible and handy.
- Keep and maintain a service log for each boiler.
- Boilers should be serviced by licensed companies/individuals.
Location and access
- The boiler should be housed in a separate room away from the general production area.
- Ensure adequate ventilation in the boiler room.
- Ensure that no flammable or combustible materials are stored in the boiler room or next to it.
- Restrict the entry to the boiler area only to authorized personnel.
- Ensure good housekeeping of the boiler room. Do not allow dumping of waste or unnecessary articles in the boiler room.
- Keep floor drains clean, clear and unclogged.
- Do not leave the boiler operation to a person who is not trained or qualified. The operator should ideally have a formal qualification and training to run a boiler of given capacity.
- Clear direction should be provided for start-up, running and shutdown procedures, blow down, high and low water conditions, and emergency procedures.
- If a boiler plant is started remotely and/or automatically without warning, workers must be alert to avoid that equipment which can be started remotely.
- The water for the boiler should be treated for hardness before using.
- Each boiler should have a temperature gauge.
- Ensure easy access to ladders, runways and controls.
- Ensure sound boiler piping support, foundation and settings for all equipment.
- Piping systems including flow direction should be properly marked. Post piping diagram at the location.
- A fire boiler utilizes flammable and potentially explosive fuel. Fuel-piping connection should be of high quality using the correct gasket, bolts, thread lubricants and tightening torque to prevent leaks.
Maintenance and risk prevention
- Implement an extensive preventive maintenance program.
- Gauge, control equipment pressure relief valves, pumps and valves, water quality and treatment methods, burner and fuel systems must be checked periodically to prevent hazards.
- All pipes and fitting should e well-maintained and in good condition.
- The boiler area has many heated surfaces causing risks of burns and other thermal hazards. Wherever possible, refractory and insulation should be used to reduce surface temperature.
- Protect the water supply to the boiler by installing an approved back-flow stopper.
- Promptly repair leaking steam, water, fuel and other boiler connections.
- Periodically clean and inspect exhaust venting, breeching and chimney to remove combustion gases.
- Conduct periodic boiler water analysis and chemical treatment to prevent corrosion, pitting and scale.
- Safety or relief valves should be tested by lifting the test lever at least once a year.
- High voltages exist in control panels and control components. Power must be shut off before these components are serviced.
- The boiler plant should have a documented lockout and tag-out procedure that is strictly enforced.
Workers training and PPE
- Workers must be trained in safe operation of the boiler equipment. The training should be a continuous process to emphasize the importance of safety.
- Wearing loose clothing and jewellery should be avoided in the boiler plant. Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as respirators, ear plugs, guides, shields, or covers should be fitted in rotating equipment, mechanically automated devices, or electrically and pneumatically operated control components to prevent accidents.
Fire Safety and First aid
- Ensure safe exits in the boiler room.
- Place an adequate number of suitable fire extinguishers in and outside the boiler room.
- Link the boiler room with the fire alarm system of the factory by installing a fire alarm switch/box.
- Place sand buckets near the boiler room to manage any spills.
- Place “No Smoking” signs in the boiler room in the workers’ language as well as in English.
- Place First aid kit just outside the boiler room.
Click on Chapter 18_ Boiler Safety compliance to download the whole chapter.