86th GM Presentation Cook

The 86th General Meeting Speaker Presentation

"A Century as a Jurisdiction"

Donald Cook

The following presentation was delivered at the 86th General Meeting Monday General Session, May 8, 2017. It has been edited for content and phrasing.

INTRODUCTION: Don Cook oversees one of the largest National Board jurisdictions in North America. He possesses more than 30 years of experience in the pressure equipment industry. Don earned his degree in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly. He started his career in 1984 as an engineer, and later joined the state in 1989 as an assistant associate engineer. He was named principal engineer in 2003, and was elected to the National Board membership that same year. He presently serves as second vice chair for the Board of Trustees and chair of the NBIC Main Committee. Don possesses an IS and AI commission and B, N and R endorsements. He's an active member of the California Boiler Inspectors Association.

Mr. Cook's slide presentation can be accessed here.


One hundred years, a century, that's a long time. And as an engineer, I have always had a fascination with numbers, and I knew this hundred year mark was coming up in 2017. And as you look back at your career and the things that you have done, there are people that started out before you, and a hundred years ago, as I did the research on this project, the similarities between what they did a hundred years ago and what we do today is very dramatic. The people a hundred years ago -- sorry to say they were all men back then -- started us on this path, this organization, as a jurisdiction, as a state, but also how we related to the National Board and ASME. It was like a triangle between the three groups, and as a jurisdiction we provided the regulations, the National Board provided the inspection, and ASME provided the engineering analysis for the boilers and pressure vessels that we inspect.

So this was a hundred years ago that we put all of this into play, and creating regulations is what happened back then. It's 1917, and there were no safety programs.  There wasn't much in the way of government regulation at all. But at that time, they saw the need for that and put rules into place. And an analogy that I came up with is similar to baseball. Over a hundred years ago somebody came up with rules for baseball. Three strikes you are out, three outs is an inning, two sets is an inning, and nine innings is a game. That's what we do, we create rules, we create regulations, and a hundred years ago people put that into play, and we still utilize that today. So I would like to start you with that, and we will go on from there.

A century as a jurisdiction. This is actually a copy of our first safety orders. It still sits in my office today. I have had copies made, and they will be distributed to our boiler inspectors at our annual meeting coming up in October, but a hundred years ago somebody came up with this very specific book.  So how did we begin?  That book was issued in January 1917. But what started that process?

In 1911, the state had a Workmen's Compensation Act, and that gave the commission, the Industrial Action Commission, the power to make and enforce safety orders, rules, regulations, to prescribe safety devices, to fix standards, and to order the reporting of injuries. A hundred years ago, that was the basis for our program. They found out in 1911 that the Workmen's Compensation Act was voluntary, and the intent was to get companies to abide by those type of regulations.

But a couple years later in 1913, the legislature figured out that the actual industry wasn't doing much, and they were still having a lot of deaths out in the various industries. And that was a real problem for them. So they said, “Well, we are going to have to write actual safety standards and provide some enforcement.” So there were 20 different types of industries that had safety standards written. Those included boilers, elevators, mining, logging, workmen's compensation, various things like that, all to help the employee.

As you think back a hundred years ago, if you got injured on the job, they found a new guy to take your place. There was no compensation for the widow, there were no safety orders, and there were no regulations of any sort. So what do you do to get around that or how do you improve that kind of program when you were relying on companies to enforce them themselves?

Hw do you adopt regulations? Nowadays we have this whole cycle, this whole methodology that we utilize between ASME and the National Board, our state and Canadian regulations. How do you actually do that? Back then they didn't really have a methodology. So California looked to Wisconsin as a state that had a nice system on how to write regulations. And you kind of had two choices. The legislature could have said, you have to have a low-water cut-off; you have to have a safety valve with an MAWP of this, and all those kind of very specific requirements. Or you could have written a broad-base standard that says you need to inspect boilers and pressure vessels, and leave the enforcement and the creation of those regulations up to the individual departments. And that's what California chose to do at the time. And that gives you the opportunity to have lots of changes, exemptions to your regulations, and gives a lot more control over the people that are actually affected by those regulations, as opposed to relying upon the legislature to change your laws. 

One thing us jurisdictional guys will say is that you don't ever want to have your legislature get involved with your program. That's the last thing you ever want to see. But you can change your regulation pretty easily -- not necessarily easily, but you can actually do that. And then if you do have all those details in the legislation, it gets really hard to change. And the program they set up is similar to what we have today. They use the term advisors; we have an Advisory Committee on the National Board’s Board of Trustees. But as a state system, when we go out to write our regulations, we bring in the affected public. You try and find people that are both supporting the employers and the employees that come out and write the regulations with you. Those are your advisors. They are unpaid, but they have a vested interest in the regulation. And the foresight that those individuals had to create that program to begin with is pretty amazing. Because it would have been easy -- let's say that the government wrote the regulations, period, with no input from the public, real top-down type of enforcement, and that would not have been very effective for the public. Because number one, we as the jurisdictional person don't know everything. We rely upon the manufacturers, the inspection agencies, the union representatives, all those people to provide input. 

Once you do all that regulation, there is still the ability to have public comment. Very important. And in California, a big state, how do you divvy it up? Well, San Francisco was always kind of a big union town, so that was a hot spot. Los Angeles was our other big city. So they were able to have basically two sets of committees to address all these changes.

Why was there a need for boiler regulations?  The early 1900s saw thirteen or fourteen thousand serious boiler accidents, with three to four hundred of those being violent explosions, which means they were ripped open, blew up a building, killed between four hundred and five hundred people every year and injured seven hundred to eight hundred, and destroyed property worth a half a million dollars. It doesn't sound like much today, but back then that was a lot of cash. So we could not allow that as a public, to have these boilers blowing up, possibly killing people. And at the time there were no set standards on how to build things, how to address problems that we were having. So that was where we had a need for our California boiler safety orders.

I found some information in the Hartford Steam Boilers' The Locomotive. Statistics from 1920 said there were almost four hundred thousand internal inspections of boilers done across the United States. An unbelievable number. And they found close to twelve hundred of those being uninsurable.  That's a lot of inspections back then. When you would get that many inspections, that shows there were a lot of pieces of equipment in service. Inspectors found 212,000 of those with defects, and 23,000 of those were described as dangerous.

And The Locomotive also had figures going all the way back to 1866 through 1920, a little more than 50 years. There were almost four million internal inspections of boilers in that time frame.  And thirty thousand of those were condemned.  It said they shouldn't have been in service at all.  Five and a half million had defects, and six hundred thousand of those things were deemed dangerous. That's a lot of pieces of equipment. Professor R. H. Thurston wrote that half, often two-thirds of the boilers they were inspecting in the 1920s were defective; 10 percent of those were in dangerous condition; and of those not inspected, he assumed those were so defective that a large percentage would have been dangerous also.

Knowing you were getting inspected probably caused people, like they do today, to take better care of their equipment. If you didn't have that feedback, you wouldn't probably have taken care of it as well.

So how did California go about writing our safety orders? A commission was formed from two committees, one in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. They met between 1915 and 1916.  Both employers and employees were represented. We wanted to get as broad a base of input as we could to get various people involved.

All of us sit on committees, I would say for the most part, or are familiar with them, and the more people who get involved, the more opinions you get, and always somebody sees it from a different perspective than you do. And to get that kind of information for free, these people are showing up, but they had a vested interest themselves in wanting to participate. And the same today.

I have an advisory committee that comes in to write our safety orders. Same kind of group of individuals that we saw a hundred years ago, same concept, and we haven't really changed that.  It's been effective.  I was pulling some historical information, and our San Francisco committee represented Union Ironworks, a manufacturer of boilers; Hartford Steam Boiler was involved back then; Standard Oil was a user of boilers; San Francisco's Board of Public Works was represented. Also present were the Boilermakers and Shipfitters Union, International Union of Steam and Operating Engineers, California Metal Trades Association, and Industrial Accident Commission, (that would have been a state person). These committees had one state person there, and then everybody else was out of the private industry or a union rep. And basically the state person was the secretary on the committee.

In Los Angeles, there was a slightly different group of people there. National Association of Steam Engineers, Southern California Edison Company, Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, City of Los Angeles, Pioneer Boiler and Machine Works, Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York, Steam and Operating Engineers, Firemen's Local No. 220, and the state representative from the Industrial Accident Commission. 

Writing these safety orders, public hearings were held in the fall of 1960. They did a little tour after they had written the regulations.  They went to the public and said, “Here are the regulations. What do you think?”  And it took some convincing. Just like any of our big changes, you have to explain that this is why we are doing these things. And so once they got that information out in San Francisco and Los Angeles, people were basically happy with the information. Not many changes took place after that happened.

The other thing that shocked me out of this is how much of the language that they wrote a hundred years ago remains the same today in our safety orders. You’d think we would come up with a different way of saying things or have different ideas, but no, a hundred years ago it was there.

So to our California regulations, we still say you have to inspect that boiler within fourteen days of notice, same as back then. You still have the double stop valves with open drain, lock and bleed.  If the insurance company did the inspection, it exempted the need for a state inspection.  We treated the insurance companies the same way as the state inspection. And there was a certificate of competency issued to insurance inspectors, same as what we do today. A hundred years ago they came up with that idea. They required the reports to be on the prescribed forms, and reports were submitted within 21 days. If you canceled the insurance, you had to let us know. The inspectors could be from a city, county, or owner/user type companies.  We had those back then, and they could be issued a certificate of competency. And there was either a written exam or an oral exam in the beginning, but you would have three people examining the individual, so I would imagine it was oral. It covered boiler construction, installation, operation, maintenance and repairs. So in 1917, is there anything missing from that list?  We still do those same things today.

One of the challenges they had back in 1917 was what to do with all the boilers that were built pre-ASME, and what to do about those objects? Do you treat them the same as a brand new boiler? What factor of safety do you want to put on that piece of equipment? It's similar to what we have to do today, such as the state special. We have those issues today, but at least then they were setting in code.  From here on out, boilers are built according to ASME, but the challenge was dealing with the stuff that was older than that. And the primary concern for everyone was lap seam boilers. They were failing at a higher rate than any other type of boiler. You couldn't see the cracks in the long seams. We are all familiar with that. Joel Amato's historical presentation earlier obviously dealt with boilers that might have a lap seam in them today. So maybe you need a higher factor of safety for these existing pieces of equipment than what you had previously. Because they basically, in anything pre-code, were doing some kind of calculation to verify that that boiler was safe for operation, determining what that working pressure can be, and they had higher factors of safety. And if you didn't know how old it was, then they threw a 5.5 safety factor on you.

Here is a chart that I copied out of one of our books here. [Slide 17] And it is probably a little hard to see up there, but I wanted to at least capture this information. ASME, new installation, all had a factor safety of 5. In California, they were based on how old the equipment was. They felt that the older the piece of equipment, the higher the factor of safety. Most of our states had four and a half: California, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. But we had the city of Detroit, Massachusetts and both had 5s, and British Columbia was all the way up to 6, but could have been dropped -- if they knew what the construction practices were.  I wanted to include that as a historical point. 

When we got to 1925, this was our next set of safety orders. They didn't get revised for eight years. Some of the new definitions that popped up over that timeframe were age of the boiler. And I don't know if we would agree with this today or not, but it's the period of time that the boiler was actually under steam, not the time since it was constructed. We might have learned a little bit more about laying up the boiler and maybe the detrimental parts of that that may not look at age in the same manner. But we also came up with a non-code boiler that was made non-ASME, and the first time we had a steam heating boiler not more than 15 psi. And some of the steam boilers they condemned (referred to as a heating boiler now), they felt weren't quite as serious as a steam boiler. And there is probably some truth to that. Even today we primarily get firebox explosions in heating boilers, but you could reclassify a steam boiler into a heating boiler.

The other intriguing thing that popped up to me was suddenly you had welding in 1925 and the forging process of welding, which is basically where they heated up the metal to a welding temperature, whatever that was, and they hammered it, and beat it, and rolled it to make a joint. So that was just beating it into shape and making the metal stick together, but they also had fusion welding where you had a weld. So in 1925 they were already beginning to do welding as we would know it today.

The National Board had a significant influence early on in the state of California. That's where we first saw them taking the National Board exam. So if you scored a 75 percent on your National Board exam, you could get a California commission. If you scored less than that, you could complain to the National Board to see if you could get your score jacked up to 75. California was one of the original National Board members, a founder of the organization, and my predecessor from 1917, R. L. Hemingway, was elected vice chair of the National Board at the original National Board meeting in Detroit in 1921. And I just can't imagine being in this position. We travel a lot and I'm able to fly from California to Alaska, to New York, wherever we have to go. And if you can imagine in February getting on a train from California and going all the way to Detroit for a code meeting. How difficult it is to get approval to travel, period, nowadays, and to think what they could do back in the '20s. I was impressed with that. The first National Board members in 1919 were from the states of California, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.  At the same time we had others join: Allegheny County out of Pennsylvania; cities of Detroit, Michigan; Erie; Philadelphia; and Scranton, Pennsylvania; Nashville, Tennessee; and St. Louis, Missouri. Then we had even more states and cities join in 1921 during the first joint meeting of the National Board and ASME in Detroit.

In 1917 - our initial code book versus the 1925 version.  In 1917 we had exemptions for the U.S. government, railroads, agriculture, twelve horsepower or less at 15 psi max, and then automobiles. When we got to 1925, they still exempted U.S. government, but went into household domestic service -- we still didn’t’ inspect home or automobile boilers. Those were all exempt from our requirements. A little information about our CAL OSHA rules: we don't care if you kill yourself at home, you just can't kill your employees. That's what our differentiation is, how we look at things.

In 1917 we had a deputy inspector, and that was limited to the type of inspections the person was able to do. He could maybe just inspect firetube railroad boilers, perhaps. But then they must have determined that we need a broader-based commission, and a person who has that commission should be able to inspect all types of boilers. So in 1925, that was eliminated, but anybody that had that kind of deputy inspector commission could keep that.  In looking at our actual early documentation, I haven't been able to find anything that speaks to the state inspectors.

It's not until the '40s where I see commissions actually issued to the state inspectors. But I think the idea was if you were working for the state that made you adequate by definition.  But the commissions early on were only handed to insurance companies and private companies. A lot of railroad commissions were issued in the early days. Then we got to the adoption of the ASME code. There was a strong desire for uniformity across the U.S.  Massachusetts was the first to have their state code after their big boiler accident. Ohio and Michigan had theirs. Other states followed. The problem was boilers couldn't be used without meeting a specific state's requirements, so it got to be difficult and expensive for manufacturers to comply with that.

There was some controversy about using the ASME code. Because what California did in 1917 was to adopt the ASME code, but there were some issues going forward with that. And some engineers responded with very positive comments, professors from Stanford, a number of other universities, saying you ought to have an industry standard.  So there was a lot of support both for the concept and the actual engineering information that was contained in the ASME code.

The only negative was our Western boiler manufacturers worried that the East would dominate the market. They felt that if the book was being written back East there would be an East Coast bias, and that we couldn't compete in California if we had this industry standard. But after three years, the number one California manufacturer built more than he had in the ten years previously, and they built it for 30 percent cheaper. So ultimately it did benefit California to switch to the ASME code requirements.

And how did we do that? In that first book I showed you, from 1917, Order 820, ASME Boiler Code Edition of 1914, with Index, ASME -- American Society of Mechanical Engineers as copyrighted in 1915, is made a part of these orders with certain changes and additions, all of which said changes and additions refer only to existing installation. And it was printed in its entirety in that first book I showed you in 1917.

A few years ago we got this from ASME. This was the first Section 1, and you can get to this page in our safety orders. The first thing we did in 1925, first revision. The code is hereby made a part of these orders. So we are incorporating the ASME code by reference.  We do that all the time today with our various ASME codes, NFPA codes, whatever it might be. That way we don't have to rewrite the standards. We rely on industry experts, like those we have here today, to do all that kind of work for us. But the part that cracked me up was you could get the 1924 ASME Boiler Construction Code covering Sections I, II, VI and the Appendix, for a buck thirty plus postage. And if you just wanted Section IV, you could get it for seventy cents plus postage. I don't know where that is in the scale of inflation.

Going through this, I wanted to kind of memorialize my presentation here for the guy that comes after me in a hundred years. This was our first Certificate of Competency issued on January 1 of 1917, and it was examined by my predecessor. Hartford Steam Boiler is mentioned in the remarks [Slide 27]. And then we had another Certificate of Competency issued to the City of Los Angeles. [Slide 28]  William Carter was issued that certificate back in 1917. Here is the first Certificate of Competency issued based on the 1923 National Board exam. This fellow got a 76.95 percent on his exam, so somebody was cranking the math.[Slide 29] This is our first deputy inspector, and it turns out it wasn't issued. [Slide 30] And then the first one that was issued was number two, to Deputy Inspector Jordan. [Slide 31] But that was strictly for horizontal-return tubular boilers. That's what I said earlier, they were limiting them to those types. And we were doing air tank inspections at the same time. So we not only did boilers, but we also did air tanks. And this was from January 26, 1919, an air compressor tank inspection. [Slide 32]

I got some of this information from the National Board’s 60th Anniversary booklet from 1979. There's good information there. And I also got a lot of it not only out of our two safety orders, but also from a boiler safety bulletin issued by the Industrial Accident Commission that came out in 1920.  And these are the guys arguing about why we need the ASME code, why we need these regulations, and they put that into writing back then, and I ran across it in the state library. It really was an eye-opener to see what we do today as compared to what was done a hundred years ago. I wanted to give those individuals credit, even though they are long gone.

One hundred years as a jurisdiction. It's a big deal, and we have survived, and I feel like our state is going to continue to grow and remain strong in the boiler and pressure vessel industry.