By Lonza Wood Protection

If you’ve ever wondered why there is so much arduous legislation governing pressure vessel equipment, then consider the severity of a system failure that results in an explosion, fire and flying debris causing loss of life and damage to property.

Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of SANS 347, will be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment. Image credit: Lonza Wood Protection

Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of SANS 347, will be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment. Image credit: Lonza Wood Protection

According to JJ du Plessis, the Senior Business Manager at Lonza Wood Protection (SA), the difference between the pressure inside a pressure vessel and the pressure outside makes for a potentially hazardous situation. For this reason, the manufacture, maintenance, repair and any modifications to a pressure vessel must be specified by engineering authorities and ratified by government legislation.

It is a well-known fact that many recorded incidents involving pressure vessel malfunction could have been prevented by a stricter enforcement of regulations and safety standards. The Pressure Equipment Regulation (PER), the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and SANS 347 all have a common goal to protect people and property. Inspection is therefore both required and smart practice for anyone who wants to avoid an accident that could result in potentially fatal injury to workers, unplanned downtime and a damaged treatment plant.

“The PER legal requirement is also very clear on the fact that all persons that perform any task associated with a pressure vessel should have knowledge of and experience in the requirements of the pressure vessel operation as set out in SANS 347. Through Lonza’s onsite customer training service, we have witnessed how properly trained staff dilutes the hazards associated with working with pressure vessels,” explains du Plessis.

Because Lonza is not only a chemical manufacturer in the South African market, but also lease out its own Tanalith treatment to its customers, the company is invested in understanding compliancy requirements.

“Compliance forms an integral part of our organisation’s duties with respect to building trust in the communities to which we belong and ensuring the consistency of our products and services. We understand our own liability of non-compliance and the importance of ensuring that every task is always done to specification. This comprehension gives our engineering team the upper hand when helping our customers achieve compliance,” says du Plessis.

Edition 2 of SANS 347 published by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) states that “Every pressure vessel is subjected to an internal and external inspection and a hydraulic test by an approved inspection authority at intervals not exceeding 36 months. Where an inspection or test carried out reveals any weakness or defect whereby the safety of persons may be endangered, the weakness or defect must  be reported to the user by the person carrying out the inspection and the user must cease the use of the pressure equipment until such weakness or defect has been rectified to the satisfaction of the approved inspection authority”.

“Bear in mind that having to shut down your operation as a result of a failed inspection is very costly in downtime. The major thrust of this code of practice is the safe operation and handling of treatment plants and the OHS Act is precise about the penalties that can be imposed for non-compliance,” points out du Plessis.

As stated in SANS 347, any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of regulations will be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months. In the case of a continuous offence, the person will be liable for an additional fine of R200 for every day on which the offence continues, or to additional imprisonment of one day for each day on which the offence continues provided that the period of such additional imprisonment does not exceed 90 days.

To assist their customers with compliance, Lonza offers a pressure certification consultation and support service. This is coordinated by their Sales Engineer, Robert Fourie, who has an expert understanding of the SANS 347 specifications. These services are also not limited to Tanalith C, Tanalith E and Vacsol Azure treatment plants.

Fourie advises that a site inspection starts the certification process. “This is a requirement as the technical designs are then compiled based on the current vessel build specifications and verified through various testing procedures. The Certificate of Compliance is then issued to corroborate that the designed build can safely operate at its intended operational pressure. This is something I have had to raise a lot of awareness on as most users are more focused on their boilers and are unaware of the fact that their pressure vessels fall into this category too.”

After recently managing the vessel certification process for BUCO’s Tanalith C treatment plant in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal, BUCO Operations Manager, Ian Morgan-Smith, said: “Having our entire vessel certification process carried out by Lonza has been a pleasure. Their engineers have the technical expertise to get the job done. As a corporate business, BUCO strives to be compliant in every aspect, especially when it involves the health and safety of our staff. Lonza plays a very important role in ensuring that we meet the required technical compliance as laid out by SANS 347 and the health and safety standards. We are grateful to Lonza’s team for a very professional service”.

Du Plessis concludes: “To ensure a healthy and safe work environment across our industry, it is critical that every industry player meets the legal specifications. The Lonza team is therefore committed to raising the awareness and risks associated with non-compliance.”

Pressure treated timber is wood that has been immersed in a liquid preservative and placed in a pressure chamber. First the vacuum removes air from the cavities to create space for the preservative solution, which is then forced deep into the wood under high pressure. All wood treaters using this process would have pressure chambers, such as sawmills and any timber supplier offering pressure-treated wood.