ABSA is a continuation of an Alberta history that can be traced back over 100 years. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, steam engines and boilers began appearing on the Canadian Prairies in the form of steamboats, locomotives, fire engines, automobiles, farm machinery and stationary steam engines for use in factories.
In the 40-year period between 1870 and 1910 there were at least 10,000 explosions in North America. Some 10,000 people were killed and another 15,000 injured.
Alberta responded to the safety hazard early. The first steam boiler regulation was passed in 1897 “for it was found that certain boilers were being operated in such a manner as to endanger human life – with safety valves being loaded with extra weights to enable the boiler to operate at a working pressure beyond the safe limit”.
In 1898, 14 engineers certificates were issued. There were only two inspectors of steam boilers – a Mr. Dan Evans and a Mr. W.C. Wilcox. It was estimated at the time that over 400 boilers were in operation of which 2/3 were used in threshing machines and the rest were stationary boilers used in mills, mines, factories, grain elevators and creameries.
The focus on inspections was evident early when on August 12th, 1907, a letter from one of the inspectors explained that due to a sick horse and a smashed up rig, very few inspections had been done in the last 3 weeks but everything was back to normal and the department should expect better numbers from now on.
In 1912, with the passing of the new Boilers Act, the first Chief Inspector, Francis Hobson was hired.
Since then, the pressure equipment industry has had staggering growth. As the pressure equipment safety authority, ABSA is involved in design review, fabrication, inspection, certification of operators and welders, and certification of QC programs.
Although everything is different, much has stayed the same. We now have over 18,000 current power engineering certificates and it is estimated that there are over 500,000 pressure vessels in operation in the province, some of them are complex and leading edge in their design. Some say that we have the highest per capita concentration of pressure vessels in North America.
We still have a Chief Inspector, #9 to be exact – Mike Poehlmann became the Chief in 2014. We still rely on design survey, inspection staff, examiners and support staff to deliver the safety programs – only now there are close to 140 of us throughout the province.
Alberta has lead in pressure equipment safety right from the start and ABSA’s Vision is simple – “to continue to lead in pressure equipment safety”. Today, ABSA is clearly a major leader in pressure equipment safety in North America.
Our mission is to carry on the legacy that has been established over the last 100 years. We take pride in the strong relationship with our stakeholders ‘”to ensure pressure equipment is constructed and operated in a manner that protects public safety”.
We have an impressive heritage and a lofty mandate and a group of talented people we call ABSA.