A Q&A with Spirax Sarco’s BOAS Operator (Cert IBO) Achievers

Training handbook

Mike Maslanka and Tom Suwart , 05/06/2020

Mike Maslanka and Tom Suwart are both steam systems experts and trainers at Spirax Sarco's UK Steam Technology Centre (UKSTC) in Cheltenham. They decided to undertake the Boiler Operation Accreditation Scheme (BOAS) Operator Award, certified by the Combustion Engineering Association (CEA). 

Here they tell us what it was like preparing and taking one of the toughest courses in the industry: 

1. Why did you take the course? 

Mike:  As well as being trainers at the Steam Technology Centre, we are also practicing boiler house operatives as we have a live working boiler on site in the Training Centre. It’s essential for us to run the boiler safely and to best practice standards. 

Tom: As well as this, we wanted to support our delegates even more with a deeper understanding of the BOAS standards. What better way is there to relate to our delegates? After all, we’ve now been through what delegates are experiencing on their journey to achieving certified status. 

2. What does the course curriculum involve and what opportunities for training were there?

Mike: The course is classroom-based but lots of videos and an interactive approach helped understanding – it wasn’t just ‘chalk and talk’. 

Tom: Having a mix of discussion, exam practice and revision points helped break up the theory of the curriculum. In fact, as a result of being a delegate, we are reviewing how we can include even more discussion points in our own training. 

3. How did you find different aspects of the course?

Tom: I think we all found the exams and the assessment the most challenging parts, it’s just something we are not used to in everyday life. Each exam is 50 minutes but it was surprising how quickly the time went. 

Mike: I was surprised at how nervous everyone was before the interviews, including myself, but it quickly passed as the assessors put you at ease.

4. Were there any particular parts of the course that stood out? 

Mike: I think the revision sessions – we would start with a clean board and then draw up a picture of the boiler house with all the relevant checks. This really showed the group how much information they had actually taken in and was a great confidence boost ahead of the exams. 

5. Was there any prior preparation required?

Tom: Tricky one for us as existing trainers, but I would say that even reading through and familiarising yourself with the contents of the BG01 (Guidance on the Safe Operation of Steam Boilers) would help, as this forms the basis for the curriculum.

Mike: The exams are hand-written so perhaps start practicing writing for a longer period of time than we are now used to. Everything is electronic nowadays so when you have to write for an hour, it can be a bit of a shock!

6. Describe what the days on the course involved – were days spent at the UKSTC, off-site somewhere else, etc?

Tom: The course took place at our training centre in Cheltenham, which, if we say so ourselves, is a great environment that’s very conducive to learning. It also has great facilities such as the Bistro for lunches, which all our customers love. We spent a lot of time in the classroom but also spent some time in the boilerhouse talking through some of the specifics such as boiler blowdown, so it kept us moving and engaged rather than just looking at a screen.

7. What advice would you give to those debating taking the course?

Tom: Make sure you have your evidence prepared before you come on the course.   Speak to Christine – our Training Centre Administrator – at least a couple of weeks before to make sure you are on the right track and not missing anything.

Mike: This really is a course where you need to take plenty of notes and make sure at the end of each day you have cemented the knowledge in your mind. It’s a challenging course, but taken step-by-step, it’s good fun and gives you a great sense of achievement!

For more information, visit: www.spiraxsarco.com/global/en-GB/training/boas