More than 40% of companies in processing industries still do not comply with international safety standards, according to a recent survey carried out by flowmeter specialist Litre Meter.

Litre Meter surveyed senior design and control engineers worldwide in the processing and oil and gas sectors.

The survey looked specifically at the implementation of the European Union’s (EU) pressure equipment directive (PED). The directive was considered to be an effective measure of safety performance by 75% of respondents but there was a 50/50 split between those who thought that PED requires re-evaluating and those who think it does not.

Half felt that PED describes requirements for vessels and pipework satisfactorily. Where a need to re-evaluate PED was identified, respondents felt that misinterpretation of the directive causes problems and unsafe systems and therefore needs further clarification or simplification.

According to the survey, there are still inconsistencies in the way that standards are applied. These variations undermine trust in PED according to 53% of the respondents. There is therefore a need for further standardisation to be applied and 60% believe that PED is sufficiently supported by industry standardisation bodies to make this happen, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

However, an overwhelming 94% of respondents said that they are confident that pressure-rated equipment tested and rated to the relevant PED standard is safe and reliable. Despite this being a European standard, 76% believe that PED is relevant to equipment being supplied to international markets outside the EU.

"These figures show that by complying with PED, we have a reliable benchmark for safety and reliability."

Some respondents, however, feel that there is a danger that some companies will deviate from PED because of inadequate or vague safety evaluation planning. This could mean end-users taking all the blame for a failure in a system they thought may be acceptable as it has PED certification. There are also concerns that suppliers in some countries purport to be compliant but in practice ignore the protective intent of the directive.

Personal safety was cited as the main reason for compliance, followed by environmental safety. Business-critical concerns, including maintaining process integrity, scored lower. In order of significance, respondents cited personal safety (76%), environmental safety (56%), process integrity (56%) and flow assurance (28%) as reasons for adopting instrumentation safety standards..

One of the ways in which PED could be improved, according to the survey, is by enhancing traceability using name, address and number information to link pressure equipment to documentation. More than half of respondents (53%) believe this is necessary; something that Litre Meter has recently introduced in its own online labelling systems.

Commenting on the findings, Litre Meter CEO Charles Wemyss said: "There has been increased focus on safety issues in the offshore oil and gas sector over recent years and the results of our survey bear this out.

"We wanted to make sure that our manufacturing focus is on safety in relation to both the environment and industry trends. These figures show that by complying with PED, we have a reliable benchmark for safety and reliability.

"Issues surrounding the environment and hydrocarbon releases, asset ageing and life extension drive the focus on safety. We want to be able to help in the process of recognising hazards and reducing risk, as well as help engineers take ownership of risk and asset integrity through proving assertions about the functionality and construction of instruments.

"Traceability of PED equipment was highlighted as an issue in this survey and this is something that we have addressed with the introduction of our online labelling system combined with clear labelling and QR codes on all our meters."