KANBrief 3/09

Safety in technology and chemicals: the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing

Methods and developments for the safe and environmentally responsible use of materials, the safe operation of technical systems and processes, and the safe handling of hazardous substances and goods, are indispensable under modern working conditions. The German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) conducts research, testing and consultancy in these areas, and ensures that the fi ndings obtained are incorporated into standardization activity.

BAM forms part of the activities of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi). A departmental research institute with around 1,800 employees, it supports the German government by providing political consultancy with a scientific basis. Beside the public administration, the essential target groups of BAM are commercial enterprises, standards and regulatory institutions, research institutions, and industry bodies in the area of technology and chemistry.

BAM‘s research and development topics are geared closely to the needs of government administrations, the commercial sector, and society as a whole. Its focilie in prenormative research, the ongoing development of test and analysis methods, the consolidation and extension of safety-related scientific findings, investigation into damage mechanisms, and the study of material behaviour.

Research accounts for approximately 60% of BAM‘s activity. It also delivers scientific services and performed around 6,000 tests, certifications and licensing procedures in 2008 alone. A large part of this activity is conducted under BAM‘s statutory mandate: it is responsible for example for the licensing of pyrotechnical products (fireworks) and for the testing of transport and storage vessels for radioactive substances.

BAM‘s expertise in many scientific and engineering disciplines is frequently exploited for the purpose of damage analysis. Toppled power lines, broken railway rails, or for that matter problems with artificial hip joints: the causes are studied at BAM. BAM‘s work does not end when the problem has been identified, however. Research activities ensure that possible solutions are developed in order to prevent the problems from arising again in the future. By its involvement in the relevant bodies, BAM ensures that the findings are also incorporated into the body of standards and regulations.

BAM in standardization

BAM has two reasons for its membership on standards committees. Firstly, it incorporates its scientific findings into the body of standards, thereby contributing to the development of safe technical products and processes. Secondly, its staff take up topical issues from standardization and incorporate them into the latest research activities.

BAM is active on 220 national and around 200 international standards committees, in the most diverse of areas. For example, it has an essential role in the development of harmonized standards for the testing of pyrotechnical devices, which has been necessitated by EU directive 2007/23/EC. Within the scope of EU directive 94/9/EC (ATEX 95a), BAM is active in the standardization of non-electrical explosion protection. In recent years, over 30 harmonized standards have been developed in TC 305, the CEN Technical Committee responsible for this area. In the IEC standards governing the testing and characterization of fibreoptic cables, BAM was involved not only in the definition of test specifications and limit values, but in some areas also in development of the test methods.

BAM in occupational safety and health

 A further important activity of BAM is research and consulting in the area of occupational safety and health and of plant safety. It is therefore represented on the Committee for Hazardous Substances (AGS), on the Committee on Industrial Safety and Health (ABS), and in the Commission for Process Safety (KAS). With its technical facilities, BAM is able to underpin the work of these committees with technical expertise, gained for example from explosion tests. The most recent example are the studies into the explosion of a large ethylene oxide sterilization plant, the results of which are being incorporated directly into a TRGS technical rule on hazardous substances for sterilization plants.

Dr. Angelika Recknagel

Dr. Volkmar Schröder