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The Insurance Industry And The Boiler Safety Program,
Partners For Safety! 

During the early years of the 1800's, at the height of the Age of Steam and the industrial revolution,  deaths and injuries caused by boiler explosions were a commonplace and daily occurence in industy.  As many as two or three boiler explosions a week were not unusual. 


These tragic accidents were caused by a general lack of understanding of the properties of steam and of the materials used in boiler construction.  Among the problems boiler manufacturers faced were a limited knowledge of metallurgy and a lack of competent design engineers. Most industrial states had boiler construction rules for their own jurisdictions;  what was lacking was one dependable, uniform construction code which could be accepted in all of the states. 


By mid-century, more steam at greater pressure was needed to meet the demands of industry. As larger and larger boilers were built, frequent accidents caused shocking loss of life.  In 1865 a boiler explosion on board the riverboat "Sultana'' caused the death of 1,238 passengers; mostly Union soldiers returning home from the Civil War. These kinds of great disasters created a public demand for safer and stronger boilers. 


In 1866, Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company was formed. Hartford developed the concept of insuring an object against loss,  and inspecting the object for safety. By 1879 Hartford had begun supervising construction and installation of boilers, and had written a widely accepted boiler construction standard known as the "Uniform Steam Boiler Specifications."  The boiler safety industry was begun in the United States by insurance companies working in concert with boiler manufacturers to produce a safe and reliable product. 


The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) was organized in 1880, and in 1914 wrote the first American ''Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code''.  This Code is now accepted world-wide as a standard for pressure equipment construction.


Creation of the ASME Code was only half the battle; without adoption and enforcement by the individual States, the Code lacked the full force of law. The Chief Boiler Inspectors of the United States and of the Canadian Provinces recognized the need for uniform adoption and enforcement of the ASME Code, and in 1919 the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors was formed. Today, members of the National Board regulate the construction, repair and inspection of boilers and pressure vessels throughout the United States and Canada.


So, how do the Oregon Boiler Safety Program and the insurance industry work together for public safety?  How are we in partnership?  The Oregon Boiler Law allows those companies which provide boiler loss insurance coverage, to also perform inspections of the equipment they insure. An insurance company which chooses to provide inspection service must comply with all provisions of the Boiler Law and are, in effect acting on behalf of the State.  If  pressure equipment is insured and inspected by an insurance company, the State does not have to perform the inspection.  Sharing the responsibility for public safety with the insurance industry is a beneficial arrangement for both the industry and for the Boiler Safety  Program.