Introduction to Pressure Vessel Safety and Regulations

Pressure vessels are closed containers designed to hold materials under greater than atmospheric pressure. Due to the risk of potentially dangerous and destructive incidents caused by over pressurization, there are substantial regulations put in place by both the state of Maryland and the university itself, regulation that must be understood by all researchers interested in using this equipment.  

Main points regarding this regulation: 

  1. Maryland regulates boilers and pressure vessels with a few exceptions. (see pressure-vessel law details below). Noncompliance can draw a $5,000 fine, plus the risk to life, limb, and property from the possibly faulty pressure vessel.  
  1. Pressure vessels MUST be built to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. Make sure you order an ASME-code vessel because, while some states allow non-code vessels, Maryland is not one of them. There are some exceptions for small, low-pressure vessels. 
  1. An ASME-code vessel will come with a nameplate bearing the manufacturer’s stamp (a “U” for unfired pressure vessels). There will also be a “U1A” data form; do not lose it because you are not permitted to operate the vessel (which includes leaving it under pressure) without the U1A. 
  1. All pressure vessels need appropriate pressure safety relief protection, usually in the form of a safety relief valve or a rupture disc (a scored metal diaphragm that bursts at a preset pressure). Consult a qualified mechanical or chemical engineer for assistance with this. 
  1. Pressure vessels must be inspected before use and every 2 years by an independent inspection agency. Contact Facilities to arrange this for your vessel. Note that the State of Maryland requires 30 days’ notice before issuing pressure vessel permits, so plan accordingly. 

Researchers should not order or commission a pressure vessel without first contacting Laboratory Safety Advocate Dr. Dan Kuespert at 410-516-5525 or [email protected], or Laser Safety Advocate Mr. Niel Leon at 913-302-8500 or [email protected]. 

Further Resources: