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Page last reviewed: 12/07/2006
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Pressure Vessels

Generally, a pressure vessel is a storage tank or vessel that has been designed to operate at pressures above 15 p.s.i.g. Recent inspections of pressure vessels have shown that there are a considerable number of cracked and damaged vessels in workplaces. Cracked and damaged vessels can result in leakage or rupture failures. Potential health and safety hazards of leaking vessels include poisonings, suffocations, fires, and explosion hazards. Rupture failures can be much more catastrophic and can cause considerable damage to life and property. The safe design, installation, operation, and maintenance of pressure vessels in accordance with the appropriate codes and standards are essential to worker safety and health.

Pressure vessel hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, and the construction industry.

Standards

This section highlights OSHA standards and national consensus standards related to pressure vessels.

OSHA

Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)

  • 1915 Subpart K, Portable, unfired pressure vessels, drums and containers, other than ship's equipment
    • 1915.172, Portable air receivers and other unfired pressure vessels
    • 1915.173, Drums and containers

Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)

National Consensus

Note: These are NOT OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection, and may be referenced by OSHA inspectors for informational purposes.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

  • 2004 Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code

American Petroleum Institute (API)

  • 510, Pressure Vessel Inspection Code: Maintenance Inspection, Rating, Repair, and Alteration. 9th ed. (2006, June 1).

  • 572, Inspection of Pressure Vessels. (2009, November).

  • 910, Digest of State Boiler, Pressure Vessel, Piping & Aboveground Storage Tank Rules and Regulations. 8th ed. (1997, November 1).

  • 620, Design and Construction of Large, Welded, Low-Pressure Storage Tanks. 11th ed. (2008, February 1). 

  • 941, Steels for Hydrogen Service at Elevated Temperatures and Pressures in Petroleum Refineries and Petrochemical Plants. 6th ed. (2004, February).

  • 945, Avoiding Environmental Cracking in Amine Units. 3rd ed. (2003, June).

Hazard Recognition

The following references provide information to help with the recognition and control of pressure vessel hazards.

Recognition

Evaluation

  • "Pressure Testing." Volume II: Health & Safety -- Controls and Hazards; Environmental Safety and Health Manual. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Control

  • "Pressure Vessel and System Design." Volume II: Health & Safety -- Controls and Hazards; Environmental Safety and Health Manual. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages

Training

Other Resources