Plant Safety Report 2012
High safety level in Germany / Safety-related defects in lifts
Experts assume that the high number of undiscovered defects is continuing to rise, as the number of lifts inspected has decreased from 470,000 in 2010 to 450,000 in 2011. This means that currently there are 250,000 lift installations in Germany which are not regularly inspected by an authorized inspection body; the number of lifts is estimated to be 700,000 in total. This is why Dr. Klaus Brüggemann, Chairman of the Executive Committee of VdTÜV, is calling upon lift operators to have their installations regularly serviced and to adhere to the set dates for inspections. “It is worrying that we do not know the technical condition of every third lift and it is not clear if they are in fact safe,” says Dr. Brüggemann.
From 2008 to 2011 VdTÜV and the German Lift Committee (DAfA) received more than 240 accident reports, and there were 78 reports in 2011 alone. Three people were fatally injured, 54 people suffered non-fatal injuries and a “dangerous situation” arose in 20 cases. “Here again we are assuming a large number of unreported cases, as many operators are unaware of their duty in this respect”, explains Dieter Roas, Head of the VdTÜV Coordination Centre for Lift and Conveyor Technology. Most accidents are caused by technical defects, which can lead to failure of safety-relevant systems.
Pressure equipment, steam generators, pipelines and boilers are an integral part of modern plant and equipment for energy production. Out of 278,000 inspections of pressure vessel installations and 30,000 inspections of steam boilers, serious defects were established in 3 percent of cases in 2011, and around 19 percent of pressure vessel and 18 per cent of steam boiler installations exhibited slight defects. The ZÜS inspectors attested defect-free condition for the majority of pressure vessel installations (77.07 per cent) and steam boiler installations (78.82 per cent). The proportion of pressure installations with hazardous defects, e.g. with critical cracks in welded joints, was less than one per cent. “However, in absolute terms this means that 334 pressure vessel and 39 steam boiler installations exhibited such serious defects that a real danger had to be presumed for both employees and third parties”, emphasised Klaus Beck, Head of the Exchange of Experience Circle of the authorized inspection bodies.
Filling stations are one of the locations where highly-inflammable liquids are stored and where particular attention has to be paid to explosion protection (explosion-proof installations). Of the 4,745 filling stations inspected in 2011, more than one half (52.66 per cent) were free of defects, 27.47 per cent exhibited slight defects, and serious defects were found in 19.7 per cent. Nevertheless, Dr. Klaus Brüggemann does not see any danger in this: “Filling stations are checked on a continuous basis and therefore any defects that are found are rectified immediately.” Dr, Brüggemann considers that this example makes it clear how important regular inspection of all hazardous plant and equipment is for the safety of clients, employees and nearby residents.
The question of whether a certain type of plant or equipment has be regularly inspected by a neutral organisation based on its hazard potential is regulated by the legislator in a list of plant and equipment subject to mandatory inspection. However, despite the technical progress of recent decades, this list has remained unchanged. This mean that plants for the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources, such as, for example, biogas plants or wind turbines, do not have to be inspected by neutral independent experts. However, experts consider that these plants are a potential source of considerable hazard. “Studies have shown that the energy revolution will give rise to rapidly increasing number of further and above all larger installations”, explains Dr. Brüggemann. “It is essential that these should be included in the list of plants subject to mandatory inspection”.
The ZÜS plant safety report shows that the inspection system provided for in the German Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health effectively protects employees, third parties and the environment. However, plant operators bear a very high level of responsibility: they not only have to ensure that a plant is free of defects - since 2008 they have also had to specify the scope and frequency of inspections based on a hazard assessment. “ The range of discretion allowed in this process often presents a challenge which may be too great, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises”, explains Beck.
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