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Under Pressure? Getting to grips with the PSSR

15 September 2021

The aim of the Pressure System Safety Regulations (SI. 2000 No 128) (PSSR) is to prevent serious injury from the hazard of stored energy as a result of the failure of a pressure system or one of its component parts. Roy Brooks discusses what this means for owners and operators of compressed air systems.

ACCORDING TO the HSE, Pressure systems are defined as:

- A system comprising one or more pressure vessels of rigid construction, any associated pipework and protective devices

- The pipework with its protective devices to which a transportable pressure receptacle is, or is intended to be, connected

- A pipeline and its protective devices.

The HSE states that ‘everybody operating, installing, maintaining, repairing, inspecting and testing pressure equipment should have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their job safely’, meaning suitable training is essential.

A written scheme of examination is required for most pressure systems

In particular, a written scheme of examination is required for most pressure systems, which should be drawn up (or certified as suitable) by a competent person – and the system should not be operated or hired out until the scheme is in place and the system fully examined.


The PSSR defines two distinct categories of personnel that may be responsible for pressure equipment – a user and an owner.

A ‘user’ refers to the person or business who has control of the operation of the pressure system or such a vessel. Once a pressure system is installed, the primary duty for compliance rests with the user.

An ‘owner’ refers to the person who owns the pressure system or his/her agent.

The PSSR also places duties on designers, manufacturers or any person who supplies equipment intended to be part of a pressure system. This is to ensure that it is fit-for-purpose, in order to prevent danger. As a user or owner, these issues should have already been addressed by a competent service provider and the equipment should be fully compliant.

Key obligations

The Pressure System Safety Regulations define the legal responsibilities of users and owners and these are many and varied.

For example, before a system can be designed or installed it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the safe operating limits are specified (and that they are subsequently reviewed and kept up to date).

This is where it is advisable to consult with a proven service provider, such as a verified BCAS member – who can help to determine which of the regulations apply to the pressure equipment subsequently provided.

In addition, the user of an installed system and the owner of a mobile system must ensure that the system is kept properly maintained and in good repair, to prevent danger.

Written Scheme of Examination

A key component of the PSSR is that a Written Scheme of Examination (WSE) is required and the legislation quotes the following:

‘The user of an installed system, or the owner of a mobile system, shall not operate the system or allow it to be operated unless a Written Scheme of Examination for periodic examination by a competent person is in place. The aforementioned scheme shall also be drawn up by a competent person.’

The process of drafting a WSE is laid out in the regulations, as is the process for periodic examinations, reporting and record keeping of pressure systems.

Also detailed are the attributes required for the persons that are permitted to certify and carry out examinations under a Written Scheme of Examination. In both instances, these are referred to as Competent Persons.

Competent Persons

The term ‘Competent Person’ refers not to the individual employee that carries out duties under the Regulations, but to the body which employs the person charged with those duties. Thus, the definition of competent person makes it clear that the legal duty to comply rests with the employer, and not with an individual, unless that person is self-employed.

To be considered a competent person for the purposes of carrying out the examination or certifying the Written Scheme of Examination, the engineer should have sufficient practical and theoretical knowledge and actual experience of the type of system under examination. This will then enable any defects or weaknesses to be identified and an assessment made of their significance in terms of the integrity and safety of the equipment.

It is important to remember that where certification of a Written Scheme of Examination is required, the regulations state that suitable, competent persons are qualified to incorporated of chartered engineer level. More information can be found in the BCAS Factsheet 315.

In all cases it is the responsibility of the owner/user to ensure the scope of the scheme is appropriate, yet it may well be the case that this is outside of their experience.

CPD-approved training course

The British Compressed Air Society is advising end users to ensure that all employees who are responsible for maintaining compressed air systems are fully trained on the requirements of the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations – and to consult with a registered BCAS member for advice and assistance.

Member company, Cambs Compressor Engineering has trained its team using a mix of online learning and virtual classroom teaching. Mark Fryer, managing director, explains: “It is really important to our business that our team is trained fully in all aspects of compressed air safety and performance if we are to offer consistent advice that can help reduce costs and improve safety for our customers.

“This is particularly the case when it comes to the PSSR regulations, which have such a direct impact on the safe and efficient use of pressure systems. When BCAS launched the new PSSR course, we were really keen for our engineers to take part and gain this valuable CPD-accredited certification, to help support the written scheme of examination service that we already offer to all new customers.

“The blended approach has been an excellent way of learning for our teams. An online e-learning module allows each engineer to train at a pace that suits them, supported with the virtual classroom sessions where delegates come together to interact and learn from each other, before the final online examination.”

The Society is currently offering 25% discount on its ‘Certificate in Understanding the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulations’ course

The Society is currently offering 25% discount on its ‘Certificate in Understanding the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulations’ course (available to customers of BCAS members only, excluding trade) to help businesses train their staff.

This blended learning workshop, one of a number of specialist training courses in the BCAS portfolio, covers the written scheme of examination in relation to compressed air systems. It provides knowledge of the PSSR, related standards and codes of practice and is designed to provide the understanding required as a user, manager or provider of written schemes of examination.

To find out more about the PSSR training course, visit: https://rebrand.ly/BCASPSSR. To find a BCAS member who can assist with your obligations under the PSSR, visit: www.bcas.org.uk/directory/default.aspx

Roy Brooks is technical development officer at the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS).