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CSB chairman wants more states to adopt ASME pressure vessel code

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 12 -- US Chemical Safety Board Chairman John S. Bresland urged more states to adopt the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ pressure vessel code to reduce the number of catastrophic accidents resulting from pressure vessel failures.

Pressure vessels can pose dangers, particularly when they are not properly installed, welded, or modified, or when they don’t have effective pressure relief systems, he said in a safety video available on CSB’s web site.

Bresland said CSB has investigated several accidents caused by pressure vessel failures, including an explosion at a Louisiana natural gas well that killed four workers when a tank rated only for atmospheric pressure was exposed to gas pressure up to 800 psi.

When CSB investigated a 2004 explosion of a 50,000-lb pressure vessel plant at a Houston chemical plant that catapulted heavy fragments into a nearby community, it found that the company had improperly welded and modified the vessel, Bresland added.

ASME’s code provides fundamental safeguards for pressure vessels, including design, welding, fabrication, testing, and pressure relief procedures, he said. CSB asked Houston’s city government to adopt it in 2006, he said, but the city has not done so despite recurring pressure vessel failures such as a heat exchanger explosion in a resin production facility which killed a veteran supervisor in the summer of 2008.

“There are only 11 states that do not require companies to follow the ASME pressure vessel code. I ask all jurisdictions to adopt [it] and related boiler standards. Lives will be saved as a result,” Bresland said.

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