People must be able to handle pressure here

A look at the training that steam boiler operators undergo at the TÜV SÜD Academy

Prospective boiler operators need to be trained. After all, they work with dangerous equipment.
Photo: Gallerystock

To ensure the safe operation and monitoring of steam boilers, steam boiler inspection associations were established in the 19th century – and were the precursors of TÜV SÜD. The expertise of TÜV SÜD is still in demand today. At the TÜV SÜD Academy, boiler experts are training a new generation of boiler operators. 

When a bicycle tire bursts, there is a loud bang. Air at a pressure of two bar above atmospheric pressure escapes from the rubber tire, and we walk away with no more than a fright. But what happens if 1,600 cubic meters of steam are suddenly released from a steam boiler with ten bar pressure? “Not much is left,” says Thomas Tschorn, who should know. Tschorn, a qualified mechanical engineer, is a pressure systems and tank systems expert at TÜV SÜD in Augsburg. Once a year, he is responsible for coordinating all the instructors for the TÜV SÜD Academy’s training course for certified boiler operators. Whether in laundries, hospitals or industrial plants – hot, pressurized steam drives the turbines to generate electricity and is used for various production processes or to provide heat.

There are many things a boiler operator can do wrong

Boilers are potentially dangerous. There’s a reason that in Germany, steam boilers require inspection in accordance with the German Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health. German employers are also required to provide sufficient training to their boiler operators. Even though boilers are highly automated today and accidents are rare because of technical safety equipment, “there are still many things a boiler operator can do wrong,” Thomas Tschorn explains. “For example, ignoring an error that led to the boiler switching off.” At the training course, he explains to the future boiler operators how they can “find out why the boiler switched itself off, take care of the issues, and cold start the boiler system after the repairs have been completed.”

Course participants have already completed some technical training

For three weeks, Thomas Tschorn and his six colleagues deliver both theoretical and practical training to the course participants. The latter takes place right at the “steaming object.” For that purpose, they tour the boiler houses at the industrial park in Augsburg-Gersthofen, at the power station of a paper mill, and at a waste incineration plant. Ideally, the 30 to 40 participants should have already completed some technical training, and they should come armed with some experience in a boiler house. The education at the TÜV SÜD Academy enables them to act responsibly at their workplace and to react correctly in the event of an emergency.

Thomas Tschorn places great emphasis on the fact that future boiler operators will be “working with a dangerous medium.” Their future work with boilers means that they will carry a lot of responsibility. At the end of the course, participants are awarded the title “certified boiler operator.” Now, their employer can in good conscience send them to work on boiler systems.