The inspection frequency of plant and equipment has historically been determined by health and safety legislation and accompanying codes. While the prescribed frequency inspections do take account of the inherent degree of risk that specific plant and equipment pose, they cannot account for individual factors such as age, operational history and working conditions.
The beginnings of risk based inspection adoption
A Risk Based Inspection approach has therefore been increasingly adopted in the intrinsically safety conscious petrochemical and refinery industries as a solution to this issue, where inspection intervals are determined based on analysis of the likelihood and consequences of failure.
This follows the legislative enablement to do so, provided it achieves the same or greater safety standards than fixed inspection intervals, within the regulations applicable to many items of plant in these industries, the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 and the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (updated in 2003).
The moves towards standardisation
The EC released a draft Risk Based Inspection Framework for public comment in April 2016. It follows the launch of the European Commission’s RIMAP project in 2000, set up to develop a European framework for risk based inspection and maintenance planning and provide a basis for continuous industry improvement and standardisation in this area, and the pre-standardisation document CWA 1574:2008. It also follows on from the UK Health and Safety Executive’s 2001 guide Best practice for risk based inspection as a part of plant integrity management.
The draft framework purports to “make inspection and maintenance programs in the industrial plants more cost-efficient while, at the same time, safety, health, and environmental performance is maintained or improved”.
While the HSE’s best practice guide provided a more prescriptive-based approach, detailing issues such as how to carry out a risk assessment and score risks, there were some issues and gaps with the finer details provided. The draft EC framework differs in its approach, laying down more general principles and leaving the finer, practical steps up to individual organisations to determine.
Highlighting the upward trend
The draft framework highlights the increasing prevalence of this approach and its release at European level is likely to open it up to a wider set of industries – a trend we have already been seeing in recent years.
With the long timeframes usually associated with passing EC standards, it is likely that the UK may no longer be subject to the EC’s rules and regulations if it is passed. In any event, the EC’s Draft Standard is in line with the approach taken at British Engineering Services for many years (you can read more about our approach to risk based inspection here) and is a welcome move towards increasing standardisation of best practice in this area.