The Blame Game - Sad, But True

We know that when something NDT related goes wrong on site, we get the inevitable finger pointing. How do you, as a technician, protect yourself from a possible court case and perhaps a jail sentence?

This is how the process works -

Your employer, his personnel, facilities and equipment is also assessed by the client and approved as a service provider. The company Level III compiles an NDT method procedure from the code that the client specifies. The client then approves said procedure. A copy of this procedure is issued to you. You are expected to use the equipment as specified, and perform the test in accordance with this procedure.

When something goes wrong, everybody will be trying to pin the blame on you, the technician, simply because you are the lowest in the chain of command. You need to be in a position where the blame goes away from you. You ask yourself, how?

Easy. Your personal documentation need to be in place - qualification, certification/ authorization, eye tests, medicals - take charge of your career and do not trust a secretary (no offence to secretaries out there), this is your career. Know when your eye test and certification expires. Know what the Written Practice says. Keep your experience log book up to date.

Know the NDT method procedure and follow it to the letter. Perform the quality checks specified by the procedure and record the results. Use only calibrated, fully functioning equipment. Use the equipment correctly. Use only the correct consumables - check expiry dates. Use or compile technique cards for jobs and have your Level III approve them.

Level II’s, take responsibility for reports that you sign - know what is on there. Record limitations on the report - areas not tested, limited access, reasons why, take pictures and attach it to the report.

Speak to your Level III regularly, ask questions, tips and build a relationship with him/her. When things do go wrong and you did stuff-up (as we all do), own up, do not try to hide your mistakes and do not lie. You want your Level III to defend you in court. The last thing you want is for the Level III to turn his back on you, or deliberately try to put you in jail.

When the blame cannot be pinned on you, your employer, the Level III and the client will be looking elsewhere. That is all you want.

How do you prove that you were working to the procedure? Documented evidence! That is how.

Get your paperwork in place!

The procedure will now be scrutinized and when they find something wrong, the Level III will get the blame. In turn, the Level III will blame the client for approving a faulty procedure in the first place.

When the procedure is fine, the equipment will be assessed. Even calibrated equipment may be faulty. When the equipment is fine, the consumables will be assessed. Even manufacturers make mistakes.

When the NDT consumables are fine, they will assess the material used to manufacture the component. They will also look at the welding consumables, the welder qualifications and the welding procedure. When everything else has been looked at, they will blame the engineer for a weak design.

Everybody will do their best to shift the blame. Get into a position where the blame goes away from you.

Hennie de Wet