Working in the Non-destructive Testing and Inspection industry is not always easy. The random hours, unique locations and the often interpretative nature of the work can be very challenging, both physically and mentally.
It’s the interpretive nature of NDT and Inspection that often plays a prevalent part in the stresses, and sometimes errors, made during our roles. In a perfect world, all our procedures, standards and specifications would be clear, unambiguous and consistent. Unfortunately, in many cases they are contradicting, vague and rarely aligning from body to body (ASME vs ISO vs AS). Coupled with the fact that some clients are not familiar with their own actual requirements, and the ever-increasing necessity to make judgement calls and interpretations, often without 100% of the facts, places significant undue pressure on the Technician/Inspector.
We often talk about competence, and its role in maximising the quality of NDT & Inspection, but for me, a major part of competence is confidence, particularly when interpretations and professional judgements are required.
The question is: How does one become confident?
The answer is different for all of us, and I can only speak of my experiences.
Over my years in the industry, two main factors have assisted in establishing and maintaining my confidence in regard to NDT and Inspection. These are:
• Support (Internal and External)
Early in the piece, a common phrase was used that I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of at the time, which was: “Those with the best paperwork win”.
These typically come in the form of:
Records of Test (Raw Data)
These records control the content of our reports. Few consider that nothing can be reported without being sourced from the record of test, with the report simply being a summarised version of the record of test. Clear, detailed and unambiguous records of test will be your saviour years from now, when possibly standing in front of a client, court, or coroner being expected to recall details from years ago. Trust me, its worth the effort to do it properly.
Hopefully within an organisation, the Level 3 has developed procedures that are specifically relevant to the scope of work you are providing. These specific procedures assist in reducing the ambiguity and amount of interpretation required for a specific task. I was fortunate that when commencing my career with C.W.Pope in the 90’s, that they provided very specific procedures for specific tasks. These specific & targeted procedures gave me the confidence to complete the inspections in a competent manner. For example, instead of having a generic procedure for the ultrasonic inspection of bolts, pins and shafts, there were numerous procedures that were developed for stand alone inspection of individual Dragline Bolts Pins & Shafts.
A separate procedure for:
• Boom Foot Pins
• Swing Shafts
• Boom Point Sheave Shaft
• A-Frame Leg Pins
Without these well documented procedures I would never of had the ability to develop the confidence and competence to test the items independently.
One of my common statements to both colleagues and students alike is “When in doubt, read the standard.”
In too many cases technicians are signing off on reports claiming compliance to a standard that they have never actually read and understood. Due to the variations from standard to standard it is vital that we maintain currency and develop systems to highlight the specific nuances of each standard.
I personally maintain a significant data base of the relevant standards I work to, using pdf editing tools to highlight specific sections that are applicable to my work, and ensuring that where any decision or interpretation is made, a clear reference back to the applicable clause or table is made in the record of test and report. Clients are less likely to question an interpretation when the specific clause for the applicable standard is presented to them as part of your justification.
Support (Internal and External)
Irrespective of where you are in your NDT & Inspection career, you will need support. This support takes many forms. It could be from your direct supervisor, the company Level 3, a mentor, a colleague. For me it’s been important to identify these supporters and to learn from their strengths. I’m sorry to say but there is no super-tech, there is no perfect role model, we have to learn to take the best from each and move on.
In larger organisations there are numerous avenues for support, however in smaller organisations there are often limited options. Some external areas for support include:
• NATA AAC, who where applicable answer NATA specific questions
• AINDT who will do its best to answer Certification and technical questions
• Forums, such as NDT.net
• Peers, becoming a member of the AINDT and actively participating on a state or national level will put you in contact with peers who may be able to provide the support you need.
Over the years, I have been blessed to have worked under and alongside some of the greats of our industry. I often, must expose my vulnerabilities and seek advice on various matters, to ensure that I have covered all bases. In many cases the interpretation or judgement has been made, but in a confirmation of confidence, I will seek advice and clarification from others, both internally and externally from my organisation.
Often i feel that our indusrty only gets harder the further you progress it, however with the appropriate level of support and confidence, competence is the likely outcome.