Part I: 1866 – 1900
Support for the idea of technical inspection associations kept growing beyond Germany’s borders. Some foreign associations had even joined the “Verband von Dampfkesselüberwachungsvereinen“ (union of boiler inspection associations) based in Hanover.
For that reason, the German umbrella organisation renames itself in 1888 the “Internationaler Verband von Dampfkessel-Überwachungsvereinen” (international union of boiler inspection associations). While politics still revolved almost solely around national affairs, the pioneers of technical inspection programs understood that safety cannot stop at a country’s borders.
By 1881, there were steam boiler inspection associations located throughout most of Germany. However, each of the experts could still essentially decide on their own definition of proper functioning. Even though the “Deutscher Verband von Dampfkessel-Überwachungsvereinen” (German union of steam boiler inspection associations) had existed since 1873, there were no binding standards pertaining to boiler safety.
Between May and June 1881, the union came to an agreement with the “Verein deutscher Eisenhüttenleute” (German association of steel manufacturers) regarding material inspections when building boilers.
With these standards, technical inspections were conducted during the building stage to preemptively minimise the likelihood of accidents. Further standards were approved in Hamburg in 1884 with a similar purpose and guidelines for calculations used in making boiler bodies were established.
Walther Gyssling, the chief engineer of the BDRV, was pleased when he presented his report about fiscal year 1877 to the members. In the last five years, none of the more than 1,000 boilers inspected by the association had exploded.
Deployed at the same time as the BDRV inspectors, government inspectors are nowhere near to achieving such success rates.
In Württemberg, where a boiler inspection association was founded in 1875, the independent technical inspection agency reports impressive results: In his first annual report in 1877, the Stuttgart-based association engineer Heinrich Bellmer reported that in the last 12 months, he remedied no less than 172 deficiencies directly linked to explosion hazards.
On December 6, 1869, the copper manufacturer Abraham Lismann stepped up to the lectern at the “Polytechnischer Verein” (polytechnic association) in Munich. Lismann had chosen his stage well as his audience included many of the most respected natural scientists and technicians in Bavaria.
Lismann, who operated three steam boilers in his company, proposed founding a “Verein zur Prüfung und Überwachung der Dampfkessel für das diesrheinische Bayern” (association for testing and inspecting steam boilers for Rhenish Bavaria).
Those present, among them design engineer Carl Linde and brewery owner Gabriel Sedlmayr, promptly established a committee to implement the plan.
The group prepared a printed brochure that included the proposed statutes of the association, which was to be sent to all boiler operators in the projected area.
The idea was also well-received in Augsburg, Bayreuth, Nuremberg and Würzburg. On April 23, 1870, the “Bayerische Dampfkessel-Revisions-Verein” (BDRV: Bavarian steam boiler inspection association) was born at a meeting in the pavilion of the “Englisches Caféhaus” (English coffeehouse) in Munich. The first managing director is industrialist Georg Krauss, whose company built locomotives.
On October 13, 1868, Carl Isambert, a 29-year-old engineer, joined the company in Mannheim. He became the first full-time expert at a technical inspection association in Germany.
A few days later, Isambert went on his first inspection visit. The result was sobering: A large number of boilers had dangerous deficiencies, while owners and boiler operators in many locations lack even a basic understanding of equipment safety. Isambert helped where he could. One year later, he took stock of the association’s performance at the general assembly in Mannheim: The inspected boilers no longer exhibit any acute risk of exploding
On January 6, 1866, 22 entrepreneurs from Baden launched the “Gesellschaft zur Ueberwachung und Versicherung von Dampfkesseln mit dem Sitze in Mannheim” (Association for inspecting and insuring steam boilers with headquarters in Mannheim).
Factory owner, Carl Selbach, became the first chairman. The association was formed in response to an accident that had occurred a year earlier in the Zum Grossen Mayerhof brewery.
A crack in the mantle of a steam boiler used there had resulted in an explosion that left one person dead and several people injured.
A trained technician could have easily found the deficiency and prevented the disaster, but regular inspections had not taken place. The operating personnel were not familiar with the hazards of boiler operations. This accident was not an isolated case, and the number of steam boiler operators increased rapidly.
Both the government in the Grand Duchy of Baden as well as potentially affected industrialists supported the creation of an association for inspections. Their aim was to prevent future mishaps with regular inspections.
The model proved successful and the founding of the company in Mannheim became the starting point for technical inspections in Germany.