Boiler and Pressure Vessels
Boiler and Pressure Vessels Quick Links
Boiler and Pressure Vessels Program Summary
Information regarding requirements and coordination of state inspection for boilers and pressure vessels.
This program applies to all equipment classified as a boiler or pressure vessel by the Commonwealth of Virginia, such as boilers, air compressors, chillers, etc., unless otherwise exempt. Where it is uncertain if a specific piece of equipment is exempt or not, contact Environmental Health & Safety for clarification.
Equipment that is not exempt from state inspection must be inspected by the State Inspector. Equipment properly installed will be issued a "Certificate of Inspection" by the State Inspector. This certificate must be posted at the equipment or readily available where posting is not feasible. Issues identified by the State Inspector will be communicated directly to the responsible persons at the time of inspection, where possible, and in writing to the university via the Office of Risk Management.
Boiler and Pressure Vessels Online Program
To coordinate efforts between the "owners" of boiler and pressure vessels, the State Inspector, the Office of Risk Management, and the various responsible parties associated with installation, repair, and maintenance.
Each department that services, maintains, or installs boiler and pressure vessels, or coordinates such efforts, must ensure that inspection issues are properly addressed and a current "Certificate of Inspection" has been issued and is posted.
This program applies to all boiler and pressure vessels on Virginia Tech properties that are not exempt by the Commonwealth of Virginia. For example, portable air tanks (60 gal. or less) are exempt from the Boiler and Pressure Vessel code.
Risk Management is responsible for coordinating state inspection activities with departments, where necessary, or with project managers of new facilities where such equipment is being installed.
Departments involved in servicing, maintenance, or installation of boilers and pressure vessels, or the coordination thereof, must ensure that alterations, repairs, or installations are in accordance with applicable state-building and boiler codes, such as the Virginia Boiler and Pressure Vessel Rules and Regulations, which became effective July 1, 1974.
Contractors must comply with all local, state, and federal safety requirements, including the Virginia Boiler and Pressure Vessel Rules and Regulations, and assure that all of their employees performing work on Virginia Tech properties have been suitably trained. Contractors must also comply with the requirements outlined in Virginia Tech's Contractor Safety Program.
- All boiler and pressure vessels (not exempt by the code) must have a Certificate of Inspection posted at/on the equipment.
- Proper access must be provided to the equipment location for the inspector at all times. Notification to departments for annual or biannual inspections is not provided. Where proper access is not provided, the inspector will notify Risk Management at 231-7439 to coordinate efforts and schedule the follow-up visit. If access is not provided to the equipment within a reasonable time, the Certificate of Inspection will be denied and the equipment must be rendered inoperable (i.e. disconnected from all power sources and not used).
- Proper access must also be provided around the equipment including a minimum of two feet on all sides, which must be accessed for servicing or maintenance.
Once the installation of boiler and pressure vessels (not exempt by the code) are near completion, the project manager should contact Risk Management at 540-231-7439 to coordinate a preliminary review and walk-through of related facilities with the State Inspector. This walk-through should be with a knowledgeable person who can answer technical questions regarding the purpose and operation of the vessels. Once the preliminary review has been completed, the project manager and State Inspector will schedule follow-up visits and certifications directly with each other.
All boilers that are required by the Virginia Code to have a Certificate of Inspection before operation must be constructed and installed in accordance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Code and, except for cast iron boilers, be registered with the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.
Boiler and pressure vessels that have already had an initial inspection and have been issued a VA12345 number, will automatically be reinspected by the third party inspection company on a one or two year basis. The Certificate of Inspection will be forwarded to Virginia Tech's Office of Risk Management and then to the responsible party for coordination of distribution and posting at the equipment site. If you have existing equipment that you believe should have a Certificate of Inspection that does not, you may contact Risk Management at 540-231-7439 for more information and/or coordination of inspection.
Contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-2341 to coordinate research vessel inspection by the contracted third party inspector if it's not permanently installed on campus (and already a part of this inspection process). Associated costs, typically $20 per vessel, shall be the responsibility of the department. If third party inspection does not result in a Certificate of Insurance (COI) being issued, a variance must be obtained from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry for non-exempt vessels. This process must prove equivalency to ASME standards and can take several months. The variance process will be coordinated by Environmental Health & Safety, and the sponsoring department shall be responsible for gathering all required information. If at the end of the variance process, a COI is denied, the department should contact Risk Management for guidance. Basic requirements for pressure vessels include:
- Vessels must be ASME stamped.
- Maximum Allowable Working Pressure (MAWP) shall be indicated on the vessel.
- Burst disc cannot exceed the MAWP and shall be ASME stamped.
- Pressure Relief Devices cannot exceed the MAWP, shall not be adjustable, and shall be ASME stamped.
Pressurized Vessel Safety Guide
Pressurized systems at Virginia Tech include everything from small, unheated, low-pressure laboratory setups to large, extremely high-pressure heated metal vessels weighing several tons. The stored energy associated with these systems has the potential to cause injuries ranging from eye injuries to multiple fatalities. A pressure vessel as small as a few liters volume at 200 psi contains enough stored energy to cause fatal injuries as a result of a catastrophic failure.
Pressurized metal vessels and components can fail as a result of fatigue cracking due to cyclic loading, overheating, and stress-enhanced corrosion cracking. Pressurized glass components can fail as a result of corrosion, manufacturing and assembly stresses, and scratches on the glass surface due to improper handling. In both types of materials, failure can occur after a period of use at the originally designed pressure and temperature and without warning.
Failure can also occur due to overpressurization due to direct pressurization or through chemical reactions that liberate heat or volumes of gas or both. In some cases chemical reactions can result in such a sudden increase in volume that the pressure cannot be relieved, resulting in an explosion or even a detonation.
It is absolutely critical, therefore, that pressurized systems be designed by a person knowledgeable in the properties of materials under room and elevated temperature, stress, and fatigue conditions, and who is experienced in pressurized system design. Except for small low pressure laboratory setups and compressed gas distribution systems, this means it is best to purchase the system rather than design it in-house. In all cases, it is best to work closely with the manufacturer of the components and materials to ensure that they are suited to the intended conditions of use.
If you are constructing a pressure vessel that is subject to the Virginia Boiler and Pressure Vessel regulations, it must be designed by a qualified, licensed professional in accordance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) "Design Standards for Pressure Vessels."
The following guidelines must be followed in the design, construction, and use of pressurized systems.
ASME Code - The Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers approved and adopted by the governing council of such.
Boiler - A closed vessel in which water is heated, steam is generated, steam is superheated, or any combination of them, under pressure or vacuum for use externally to itself by the direct application of heat. This shall include fired units for heating or vaporizing liquids other than water where these units are separate from processing systems and are complete within themselves.
Certificate of Inspection - An inspection, the report of which is used by the Chief Inspector (of Virginia) to decide whether of not a certificate as provided by 40.1-51.10 may be issued.
Factors of Safety - The minimum factor of safety shall in no case be less than 3.5 for vessels built on or after January 1, 1999.
Hydrostatic Pressure Test - The primary method used to test for leaks and assess the structural integrity of pressurized vessels. It is conducted by filling the pressure vessel with water and pressurizing it to test for strength and leaks. The test shall not exceed 1.25 times the maximum allowable working pressure, except as provided by the ASME Code.
Maximum Allowable Working Pressure (MAWP) for formed heads under pressure - The MAWP for formed heads under pressure shall be determined by using the appropriate formulas from Section VIII, Division 1, ASME Code and the tensile strength and factors of safety given in subdivisions 1 and 3 of the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety Act (16 VAC 25-50-380).
Maximum Allowable Working Pressure (MAWP) for non-standard pressure vessels - For internal pressure. The MAWP on the shell of a non-standard pressure vessel shall be determined by the strength of the weakest course computed from the thickness of the plate, the tensile strength of the plate, the efficiency of the longitudinal joint, the inside diameter of the weakest course and the factor set by the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety Act. For external pressure. The MAWP for cylindrial non-standard pressure vessels subjected to external or collapsing pressure shall be determined by the rules in Section VIII, DIvision 1, of the ASME Code.
Maximum Allowable Working Pressure (MAWP) for standard pressure vessels - As determined by the applicable provisions of the edition of the ASME or API-ASME code under which the standard pressure vessel was constructed and stamped. The MAWP shall not be increased to a greater pressure than shown on the manufacturer's nameplate stamping and data report.
Non-Standard Boiler or Pressure Vessel - A boiler or pressure vessel that does not bear the stamp of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the ASME stamp, or the National Board stamp, when applicable.
Pressure Relief Devices - Pressure relief devices are used to provide a means of venting excess pressure, which could rupture a boiler or pressure vessel. It is the last line of defense for safety. There are many types, such as a safety valve (typically used for steam or vapor service), relief valve (typically used for liquid service), safety relief valve (serves as both a safety valve and a relief valve), and rupture disk (a non-reclosing disk which is destroyed upon actuation).
Pressure Vessel - A vessel in which the pressure is obtained from an external source, or by the application of heat from an indirect source, or from a direct source, other than those boilers defined by the code.
PSIG - Pounds per square inch gauge.
Standard Boiler or Pressure Vessel - A boiler or pressure vessel that bears the stamp of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the ASME stamp, and the National Board stamp, when applicable.
Unfired Pressure Vessel - A vessel in which the pressure is obtained from an external source, or by the application of heat from an indirect source, or from a direct source, other than those vessels defined as "boiler".
Variance - Upon application pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (9) of 40.1-6, the Commissioner may allow variances from a specific regulation provided the applicant proves by clear and convincing evidence the boiler or pressure vessel meets substantially equivalent operating criteria and standards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Small, tabletop autoclaves are exempt from boiler and pressure vessel inspection; however, floor models (i.e. larger models) do need to be inspected by the State Inspector. You may notify Risk Management at 540-231-7439 to coordinate an inspection.
If the boiler/pressure vessel is not owned by Virginia Tech (ex. large water heaters or boilers that are owned by the property owner), the Office of Real Estate Management will coordinate the inspection with the property owner.
If the boiler/pressure vessel is owned by Virginia Tech (ex. sterilizers, air compressors) and is being used in leased spaces, the department needs to notify Risk Management at 540-231-7439 to have the inspector perform the inspection and issue the Certificate of Inspection. The department is responsible for paying for the inspection.
Certificates of Inspection are received from the State Inspector by Risk Management and are then forwarded to the designated service and maintenance department for posting, such as Mechanical Services, Electrical Services, or Student Programs Maintenance. If you would prefer to have the certificates sent to someone other than the designated service and maintenance group, you should notify Risk Management at 540-231-7439.
Certificates of Inspection should be posted at the equipment it applies to - preferably in a protective cover or sleeve on the wall next to the equipment.
Be aware that it may take several months from the date of inspection to receiving the Certificate of Insurance. If you believe the equipment has not been inspected and appears to be past due, you may notify Risk Management at 540-231-7439 to report the equipment, location, and VA number so that inspection with the State Inspector can be coordinated. Occasionally, equipment is moved or transferred to another department or building and the State Inspector cannot find it during routine visits.
The Commonwealth Of Virginia contracts with a third party inspection agency (which may change every 2-3 years) to inspect boiler and pressure vessels on campus. Visits and receipt of Certificates of Inspection are coordinated through the Office of Risk Management.
Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager