Ethics education and verification

Ronald Reagan used the Russian proverb: doveryai, no proveryai (доверяй, но проверяй), meaning ‘trust, but verify’.

It is applicable to the concerns displayed by Neal J Couture, ASNT Director, in the May 2023 issue of Materials Evaluation. He promotes additional requirements for the certification process, which would include training in ethics. I heartily endorse the concept, but I feel that it falls short of solving ethical failure in the actual performance of non-destructive testing (NDT) activities.

During the construction of the Alaska pipeline in 1976, problem welds turned up in a confidential audit made by Alyeska after it discovered that some X‐rays, which are made of each weld to confirm its quality, had been falsified. The process required the NDT technician to find an acceptable weld radiograph and repeat the radiographs of that weld, while changing the identification on the radiograph to represent a different weld. This would be repeated over a series of radiographs meaning that these welds were submitted as acceptable, although they had never been X-rayed!

Detection of this reprehensible ‘scam’ led to additional oversight and there is no history of its recurrence. However, the same process reoccurred on the contraction site of the San Nuclear Plant around 1976, when I was on-site conducting a quality control oversight. Although this was discovered prior to activation of that site, it demonstrated the determination of certain individuals to put lives at risk in order to make their workload easier. 

These are only two instances of intentional falsification of NDT results and I could cover many pages with additional examples. This brings me full cycle to ‘verification’. My point is that no amount of ethical training will prevent certain individuals from finding an easier, and most often a dangerous way, to ‘complete’ their NDT inspection.

To return to the verification process, I am proud to say that my previous employer applied considerable resources to audits, conducted without warning, on completed inspections. The technician would never know which inspection site, area and/or inspection would be re-examined and the result compared with his report. In addition, many of our clients would conduct audits, both on-site and at our office on job reports.

Yes, it involves training auditors, applying expenses and overheads. Is it ever enough to be comfortable about the ethical application of NDT to provide accurate evaluations? Probably not. However, by adding ‘verification’ to the process, there is an acceptable level of belief in the process

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