Pressure Vessels

Health and SafetyUnder the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 [1] employers must provide work equipment that is safe, and ensure that staff are trained in its use.

In the case of pressure vessels such as sterilizers and compressors, the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 [2] specify the requirements to prevent the risk of serious injury from these items.  Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on the implementation of these Regulations is provided in Pressure Systems: A brief guide to safety (PDF) [3].

Each sterilizer and compressor requires to have a Written Scheme of Examination drawn up by a Competent Person and regular examination of the pressure system. Some small volume compressors (<250 Bar-litres) are exempt from the written scheme but other requirements still apply, including maintenance.

Obtain a Written Scheme of Examination, in accordance with the HSE’s Written schemes of examination. Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 [4] for each sterilizer and compressor on installation or from a Competent Person following installation.

Arrange for safety inspection and certification at intervals advised by a Competent Person (typically at least every 14 months for sterilizers and at least every 26 months for compressors).

Arrange maintenance per manufacturers’ instructions.

Check insurance cover for pressure vessels because general insurance policies for surgeries often exclude pressure vessels. It is a legal requirement to have third party liability insurance for pressure vessels.

Provide staff training in the operation of equipment.

The use of small steam sterilizers, including health and safety requirements, is described further in the SDCEP guidance Sterilization of Dental Instruments (PDF) [5].

Sources of Information

  1. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)(www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1998/2306/contents/made)
  2. The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/128/contents/made)
  3. Pressure Systems: A brief guide to safety. Health and Safety Executive (2012) (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg261. (PDF))
  4. Written schemes of examination: Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (2012) (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg178. (PDF))
  5. Sterilization of Dental Instruments. Dental Clinical Guidance for Scotland. Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (2012) (https://www.sdcep.org.uk/published-guidance/decontamination)