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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 28, 2011
Special Section - Technical Inspection
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100 Years of Technical Inspection in Poland
April 28, 2011   
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The Office of Technical Inspection (UDT) is one of a few organizations in Poland that can boast a history dating back a century. Today it has a large staff of highly qualified experts—engineers who provide advice and inspection services in all industries, both at home and abroad. The UDT has its own large research and diagnostic laboratory and its own training center.

The primary objective of Poland’s technical inspection system over the past century has been to ensure safe operation of equipment.

Thanks to the invention of James Watt, who built the world’s first steam boiler in 1782, industry experienced a boom in the 19th century. Steam boilers began to be more widely used and mushroomed in number. Their operational parameters also advanced gradually. But the poor quality materials used for the construction of boilers at the time, the low level of technology and poor staff qualifications led to a growing number of failures that often had serious consequences for people and property.

This resulted in the need for regulatory and technical requirements in the construction and operation of boilers and the establishment of specialized organizations to enforce these requirements. With technical and technological progress, these organizations updated and modernized the legal and technical regulations in force.

To counter dangers related to the use of boilers, associations for the supervision of steam boilers were set up in Britain, Austria, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Russia. In 1888, these organizations formed the International Union of Boiler Inspection Associations.

In the early 20th century, Poland was partitioned and under foreign occupation, so the technical supervision system was shaped by political relations and legal and technical standards introduced by the partitioning powers: Austria, Prussia and Russia. Steam boiler supervision organizations operated in individual parts of the country controlled by the partitioning powers. They had been established on the basis of laws in force in these countries. They were managed by non-Poles, though many Poles worked for them as well.

Despite these limitations, Polish industrialists in the part of the country controlled by Russia, known as the Kingdom of Poland, were anxious to establish an association of owners who would pitch in to maintain, at their joint expense, a specialized technical organization that would support them in ensuring safe and economic operation of boilers by carrying out independent inspections and tests. But the authorities at the time were hesitant to permit the establishment of such an organization.

A breakthrough came on April 21, 1910 when the czarist government approved a law “on amending some regulations governing steam boilers.” The law permitted the establishment of associations and unions of owners for the inspection of boilers. These organizations’ articles of association had to be approved by the authorities.

Under these favorable conditions, Polish industrialists drew up an innovative document entitled The Law (Statute) of the Warsaw Steam Boiler Inspection Association and had it approved by the Russian minister of industry and trade on Jan. 7, 1911 This date is considered to be the beginning of Poland’s technical inspection system. Unlike inspection organizations operating in areas of Poland partitioned between Austria and Prussia, the inspection organization in the Kingdom of Poland relied on all-Polish staff. The Office of Technical Inspection is a successor to the Warsaw Steam Boiler Inspection Association established at the time.

When Poland regained independence after World War I, the Warsaw association continued to work in the same area of the country and its responsibilities were additionally expanded to cover the part of the country formerly controlled by Austria.

Efforts to unify technical inspection organizations in an independent Poland began with the adoption of a law on the inspection of steam boilers on May 31, 1921. The law abolished old regulations imposed by the former occupying powers and introduced a uniform boiler inspection system throughout Poland. In 1925, the Warsaw Steam Boiler Inspection Association, under an agreement with City Hall, expanded its inspection services to cover cranes used in the capital. In 1934, regulations took effect to further expand inspection services to include acetylene producers.

As the association developed, new research facilities opened, including mechanical, thermal, metallographic, electric and water laboratories.

When Poland was under Nazi occupation, Germany’s Technische Überwachung Verein took over the responsibilities of the Boiler Inspection Associations in Katowice and Poznań, and the almost all-Polish technical staff was replaced with Germans. In the part of occupied Poland called the General Government, the Association of Technical Inspection in Warsaw was moved to Cracow. Inspection responsibilities were exercised by Polish engineers there.

As soon as World War II ended, Boiler Inspection Associations began operating in Poznań, Warsaw and Katowice in 1945. Based on the law of 1921, the industry minister introduced a receivership procedure in these associations.

A decree of Oct. 26, 1950 established the Office of Technical Inspection (UDT) in Warsaw, ending a five-year interim period of receivership management. Carrying out the provisions of the decree, the minister of heavy industry, under a decree dated Dec. 4, 1951, established Bureaux of Technical Inspection in Katowice, Warsaw and Poznań. Direct inspection of equipment was exercised by sector-specific inspectorates: for boilers, cranes, holding tanks and acetylene cylinders.

Today three institutions are responsible for technical inspection in Poland: Urz±d Dozoru Technicznego (Office of Technical Inspection), Transportowy Dozór Techniczny (Transportation Technical Supervision), and Wojskowy Dozór Techniczny (Military Technical Inspection).

The Technical Inspection Act of December 2000 enabled Poland’s technical supervision services to carry out their responsibilities at a time of the country’s preparations to join the European Union. The law:
- annulled the legal status of the UDT as a central institution working as part of the state administration;
- made the UDT president “first-instance” authority in technical inspection matters, while the economy minister became an appellate authority (second instance);
- provided the UDT with state corporate body status.

In terms of rules and technical measures, the law:
- provided for the primacy of harmonized European law;
- authorized ministerial decisions on technical conditions regulating technical inspection;
- expanded the UDT’s responsibilities to include cooperation with both Polish and foreign institutions in activities aimed at bringing Poland’s technical inspection regulations in line with European Union requirements;
- empowered the UDT to issue certificates to technical equipment producers in addition to its powers in certifying quality systems.

As a result, today the Office of Technical Inspection operates on several fronts at the same time—as an Inspection Body, Certification Body, Notification Body, Research Laboratory, Calibration Laboratory, and Training Center.
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