Pressure relief systems

Fermilab’s mission requires the use of pressurized systems. These systems vary widely in purpose and design (for example, air compressors and cryogenic vessels), but they always require the use of a pressure relief device. Inspection and testing of pressure relief devices is a critical safety measure to ensure that pressurized equipment is not overpressurized.

In the summer of 2015 a Fermilab employee was injured while testing a pressure relief valve. The incident led to a comprehensive review of relief device inspection and testing practices and an overall assessment of pressure safety at Fermilab. It was found that inconsistent methods were being applied by various Fermilab departments for the tracking of inspections and testing of pressure relief systems as well as inconsistent or lacking documentation.

The assessment team highlighted the Accelerator Division/Mechanical Support Department (AD/MSD) database for tracking relief device inspections and tests as the most robust system at Fermilab. The assessment team recommended adopting the AD/MSD database labwide, and the Mechanical Safety Subcommittee will now require the use of this database in the new revision of FESHM 5031.4: Inspection and Testing of Relief Systems. A systematic division-by-division roll out of the database is currently under way.

Technical staff of the various departments across the lab continue to be the ones responsible for inspecting and testing relief devices and entering the information into the database. The technical staff is most familiar with the pressurized equipment and the procedures to safely shut down the system in order to remove or install a relief device.

The Mechanical Safety Subcommittee, in conjunction with the Cryogenic Safety Subcommittee, has set up an ad hoc panel to review FESHM 5031.4. The major technical change will be changes to inspection and test intervals to better align with intervals published industrial standards. Other changes include improving the definitions section, updating the responsibilities section, and replacing the old test record form with a reference to the new labwide database. The Mechanical Safety Subcommittee will also review and if necessary update the other FESHM chapters on pressurized equipment to verify that it is clear that all relief devices must follow the requirements outlined in FESHM 5031.4.

If you have any questions regarding the pressure relief device (PRD) database, please send a message to the database manager.