Espresso Machines and Pressure Testing - legislation required - 16/06/2017

THERE NEEDS TO BE GREATER CLARITY ON BOILER PRESSURE TESTING, seeking to challenge the HSE that the PSSR 2000 is unwieldy at best or even completely inappropriate for the coffee machine industry and seeks to open debate on the subject between the HSE and BSA.

It is well documented that back in 2004 there was an incident involving an espresso machine sited at a well-known supermarket chain, which exploded causing injury to six people.

The pressurised boiler within the espresso machine gave up after the safety devices on the boiler failed, to be precise.
One would have thought following such an incident, legislation, clear guide lines and direction at least would have followed.  Well you would be wrong, little extra has been forth coming from the HSE or any other government body.

Yes, there was already existing legislation which addresses boiler testing requirements, however a clearer understanding or interpretation relating this appropriately to the Beverage industry has not been forthcoming.
So a quick outline on how the legislation seems to read.

The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000
Under the legislation, all pressure vessels should have a written scheme of examination which should involve testing at least every 14 months by a ‘competent person’.  This is one area of ambiguity but is mostly taken to mean someone with boiler testing experience, usually a degree qualified engineer.  There is no clear guidance about what precisely should be tested by the engineer.

In essence, the responsibility for boiler testing falls to the site owner or site business management, who have a duty of care to the premises and people in and around them.  Who is financially responsible for the testing is another matter and will vary depending on ownership or the machine and where it may be rented for example, the terms of the rental agreement.

In practice this most often means that an insurance company (to whom the ultimate liability would fall should an event occur) insists on using one of their dedicated or designated test engineers (typically at a cost of around £250-350).  The additional ‘rub’ on this for the coffee industry is that these engineers require an espresso machine engineer to assist them access the parts for testing and carry out the tests as they do not have the espresso machine knowledge.  This can result in an additional £200 charge the site.

Ultimately HSE legislation is generally enforced by local authorities.  However, it is fair to say that most local authorities have not pushed this issue, possibly as, dare we say it, they may see implementing it, as somewhat overkill given the risks proposed.
It has to be said also that, the industry itself has also ‘ducked’ this issue to a large extent.  This is down to the deterrent cost of compliance, underpinned by a lack of clear guidance, lack of enforcement and the generally perceived level of risk attached to both possible boiler failure and noncompliance from a health and safety perspective.

It appears to many in the industry that Insurers are actually the only drivers of enforcement and that this is driven by their desire to supply their own inspector “well why shouldn’t they take the extra revenue if someone has to”!
So one asks is this because the risk and legislation after 10+ years has actually been recognised or is it an opportunity for fund raising. This maybe a cynical view and a bit harsh on the insurers but there it is.

However, they do have the law on their side and would bear the brunt of a claim should a boiler ever again cause injury or damage.

So what is the answer?
There are potentially 100,000 plus Espresso machines more than three years old in the UK,  and countless boilers, and new higher pressure Bean to Cup Machines coming to the market place.

Who is looking out for the owners and keeping them informed? Insurance companies, Suppliers or manufacturers, what they do is nowhere near enough and in most cases one would suggest a bit too little and way too late. The users need a consistent message, awareness and a process that works, both practically and fiscally. A process the suppliers and manufacturers can sensibly deliver to a customer base that deserves better.

It is said ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law, however how many Café and Restaurant owner know nothing of this requirement let alone understand the detail of the legislation.

Clearer legislation which can only come from Government departments HSE. The Beverage Services Association along with any other interested parties need to lobby MP’s, councillors and any other elected representatives to drive change before we see a repeat of the Sainsbury’s Explosion in another outlet in the UK.

I know most people within the industry reading this will say “one recorded problem out of 100,000 plus machines over at least 15 years, no big deal, scaremonger at large”, however it is if it’s your machine or your customers or a friend or colleague at the machine when it happens!

So, The Beverage Standards Association is calling for 2 things:
i. Real debate on whether the boiler regulations which are designed primarily for industrial boiler safety are appropriate for the coffee machine industry? 
2. And if they are deemed so, we want clearer guidance and simplicity to aid people across the industry comply in a sensible and cost effective way.

This article was written by Bryan Stockley who is the owner of BSsc-LTD which is an independent consultancy business operating in the hot beverage arena. Bryan can be contacted at or visit his web site at

Added: Wednesday, 16th December 2015