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Proposals to remove fourteen legislative measures

Annex 4 - Gasholders (Record of Examinations) Order

Gasholders (Record of Examinations) Order 1938 (S.I. 1938/598) and

Section 39 (2) of Factories Act 1961


4.1 Section 39 of the Factories Act (FA) 1961 sets out precautions as respects water-sealed gasholders with a storage capacity of not less than 140 cubic metres. Section 39 (2) which was amended in 2009 (by S.I. 2009/605) requires a duty holder to “have the gasholder thoroughly examined by a competent person at least once in every period of two years and a record containing the prescribed particulars of every such examination shall be kept available for inspection”. The 1938 Order gives the details of the “prescribed particulars” which must be included in each record of examination of these water-sealed gasholders.

4.2 Both section 39 and the 1938 Order originated at a time when the production of town gas (made from coal) at gas works was commonplace and widespread. Gas works required on-site storage capacity to cope with diurnal demand patterns and water-sealed gas holders were most commonly used for this purpose. Above ground water-sealed gas holders can contain very significant quantities of water as well as gas. Failure to manage the integrity of the holder can lead to catastrophic releases of both fluids. In the 1930s it was also not uncommon for individual factories to produce their own town gas and operate their own gas holders. Since the introduction of natural gas to the UK in the 1960s and 70s there has been a drastic reduction in the number of water-sealed gas holders in operation. Those water-sealed gas holders still in operation are connected to the gas distribution networks.

Rationale for revocation

4.3 HSE believes that section 39 (2) of the FA 1961 and the 1938 Order can be removed without lowering health and safety protections. This is because a substantial body of other legislation12 applies to these gasholders and to the records that should be kept to demonstrate that a holder’s material integrity is being adequately managed. It is considered that these regulations would provide sufficient legislative cover to maintain health and safety.

12 the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), the Control Of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) Regulation 3.

4.4 COMAH qualifying water-sealed gas holders (i.e. those with a capacity of 50 tonnes of methane or more) attract the general duty of COMAH Regulation 4 which states that ‘every operator shall take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and limit their consequences to persons and the environment’. The demonstration by the operator, through record keeping, of an adequate integrity management regime is an essential and accepted part of meeting that duty.

4.5 In the case of non-COMAH gasholders, PUWER Regulation 6 (2) and (3) provides adequate cover for inspection purposes of such gasholders (although it does not contain a strict requirement for a thorough examination at set intervals). These regulations are supported by the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) “Safe use of work equipment – Provision of Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1999 (publication L22, which also refers to the MHSWR 1999 Reg 3). Together with PUWER this ACoP supports the legal requirement for an appropriate inspection and details what should form part of the inspection i.e. visual checks, functional checks and testing13.

13Paragraphs 138 to 143 of the ACoP:

4.6 The Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) have published technical standards since the 1960s.These are established as trusted gas industry standards and are used to assist in compliance with legislation and official approved codes of practice and guidance.

4.7 These include the IGEM/SR/4 Edition 3 publication titled “Variable Volume Gasholders Storing Lighter Than Air Gases” 14. Section 6.2 of this publication covers the inspection of water-sealed gasholders, based on section 39 of the FA and the information requirements as detailed in the 1938 Order. This industry standard recommends that an intermediate examination is undertaken to an equivalent standard, meaning a potential annual inspection, which goes further than the thorough bi-annual examination specified in the FA.


4.8 If the repeal of this legislation is taken forward HSE will work in partnership with IGEM and industry to make any changes to the SR/4 standard that might be required. This will focus on a goal setting approach to ensure the standards in place are both adequate and appropriate.

4.9 Section 39 of the FA and the 1938 Order have been cited in one Improvement Notice (in relation to a non-network gasholder) issued in the previous 13 year period. Neither section 39 of the FA, nor the Order, appear to have been cited in approved prosecution activity during the same period.