Inside the inspection community there is a big age gap between the younger 25-40 year old inspectors to 60+-year-old inspectors. Certification were not needed back in the “good old days” what was important was your experience. Have you done this or have you done that? Of course people who were looking for jobs would always answer “Yes”, which is where the phase “Fake it until you make it comes from.” Like everything else, things are getting bigger, more pressure, longer life spans are needed, and codes are getting more stringent. With some of the explosions, spills, and collapses, companies are getting into major dilemmas, insurance premiums are skyrocketing, and money is being lost. So more oversight and quality will need to be performed to mitigate those issues, so whom do you send to the field to watch over our assets? The guy we used last time with all the experience is retired, we need someone else. So in steps the young inspector, no one wants to turn over a multi million-dollar project to a 30 something year old guy, his resume is not long enough. But he has certifications that show he understands the processes and is able to interrupt the codes correctly.
Not everything being built, fabricated and inspected is exactly in the codebook, you have to interrupt the code to apply them to your current situation. How do we know that the inspectors are interrupting the codes and standards correctly? This is where the governing bodies have stepped in with certifications. These certifications are to let everyone know the person who carries them have met a minimum training and experience. They can interpret the codes and apply them correctly to work being performed.
I have gained quit a few certifications over the 14+ years of inspection. I have heard the same thing over and over “your just a professional test taker.” Now here comes the problem, experience doesn’t count; you have to be able to show that you know what you are talking about. I give this explanation all the time, “Would you hire a welder and have them start welding production? Of course not, you test them. See if they can actually weld and it will pass test.” The same thing applies to inspectors, you can’t let them run around and sign off inspection report if they have no idea what they are signing. Inspectors need to be tested; they have to be able to apply the codes correctly.
This is the other side of the coin; an AWS CWI isn’t a NACE inspector. I know that the “I” in CWI is for inspector, but that doesn’t mean they can inspect anything. I would say they could probably sit down and figure out the more simple things by reading the codes, just as a NACE inspector could do the opposite. With your certification you get tested on how to read and interrupt certain codes, but if you have not been tested on a body of knowledge then you are just as inept to inspect something as anyone else. In short not all inspectors are created equal. With that in mind the governing bodies AWS, API, ASME, and NACE have been creating more certification to help with this problem. Making a more specific certification to give inspectors a more round knowledge is a great thing and making quality inspection a value added process.
People ask me “There is know way you have been an inspector that long, to get all your certifications!” I usually explain things that I have been fortunate to work under some great experience inspector who have help me along my way in this industry. I would watch vessels being welded or repaired, so now you learn about vessels, and after fabrication you have hydro testing with coating to follow. So a lot of time when you are inspecting thing there are lots of other components of the project that deal with other codes. Why not learn these and get experience with these other forms of inspections? Expose yourself to other forms of inspection; ask questions, and most import read the code. But always try to improve yourself; every time I take a class I learn something new.
So in conclusion, now days you have to show a certain level of qualification, the easiest way to do that are with certifications. Just remember that certifications do require a certain number of year’s experience, so experience is still needed. Experience is great and I don’t mean to down play the importance of it, but inspectors have met a higher standard than just experience. Inspectors have to show that they understand the codes and can apply them correctly. Keep learning, keep asking questions, and by all means take another class
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