There Should Be No Such Thing As A "Picky Inspector"

Disclaimer: This diatribe is fortunately not pertinent to my current work. I am lucky enough right now to perform inspections and consulting for extremely quality-focused clients and facilities. This is a general statement based on my experience in many other working environments going back over the past 15+ years.

I'm tired of hearing about some NDT inspectors being labeled as "too picky". This term usually appears when someone actually does their job and makes calls that the previous inspector either missed or ignored. Missing something may be due to a lack of experience, training, or simply the natural variables involved in NDT which is quite often not black and white mathematics. It might not always be tolerable, but it can be honest. But "ignoring" something... thinking one has the right to skew the results to the liking of their client, make judgement calls outside the boundaries of the acceptance criteria, or simply look the other way when an indication pops up... this is inexcusable and prompts the term "picky inspector" when a proper job is actually performed.

Here's the thing: as an NDT inspector it's not your job to interpret the code any way you see fit to appease the repair rate targets of your customer. Your job is to have the training, skills, certification and diligence to follow the procedure and make determinations based on the acceptance criteria of the governing code. You have no authority to move the goal posts.

We have a troubling affliction in industry with the "bottom feeder" effect: those favourite technicians that impart personal bias and a penchant for conflict avoidance. They tell the clients what they want to hear. These inspections usually cost less upfront, result in fewer (if any) repairs, and generally serve the bottom line. As a result, they're more likely to get repeat work while the upstanding inspectors that give a damn sit out another round. These bottom feeders completely fail to serve the purpose of a quality control program and the lack of integrity can lead to dangerous safety consequences.

The suspicion that a new NDT contractor is more picky should first cast doubt on the previous one, not the new one. Double check settings, calibrations, and results. Confirm with an alternate method. Verify and excavate. Take photos. Learn from your inspections and do what you are hired to do... follow the procedure and call to the code. Do not deviate. If the client doesn't like the answer after you show them you're right, then that speaks volumes about the quality of product they're producing and the kind of client you might want to divorce yourself from.

I have never met any inspector that was "too picky" and rejected relevant indications above and beyond the code limits. Never. If you have a reputation of being too picky, then I hazard a guess it's because your level of integrity (not to mention guts to be able to deliver "the bad news") is in the upper few percentile of industry.

The governing code you're working to provides the absolute distance and width of the goal posts. We can't be "too picky" or "not picky enough" if we're doing our jobs.