The NDT inspector in the USA

My life experience in the USA has been in the application of non-destructive testing (NDT) methods to provide industrial solutions. It dates back to 1960, when the available NDT tools were in the early stages of their applications to industrial solutions.

I was on the ‘front line’ of the process applications and, through trial and error, I contributed some valuable adjustments to ultrasonic examination, in particular. As technology evolved and equipment became more portable, some of the technicians’ work issues were eased.

Safety became a primary issue, as opposed to the ‘early days’, when harnesses were optional, gas monitoring was infrequent and ‘personal protective equipment (PPE)’ was minimal.

The modern technicians have, at their disposal, an array of safety equipment, strict monitoring of atmospheric conditions and control over exposure to dangerous atmospheres. Entry into enclosed spaces is controlled and strictly monitored.

I had just completed an ultrasonic inspection of the interior structure of the cargo tanks on the SS Sansinena. You can imagine our consternation when we heard the explosion from our house and learned of the disaster. Our lives were literally at stake when we entered those cargo tanks.

So, conditions are much safer for the NDT technician under present-day conditions. How do these technicians apply their technical skills?

The main function of an NDT technician is to perform non-destructive tests on materials, systems and/or components to detect defects that are likely to have adverse effects on the functionality and safety of the item being assessed. These tests depend on the test method, standard and qualification level of the technician and include examination of bridges, pipelines, aircraft and plant equipment, using NDT techniques such as acoustic emission testing, radiography, electromagnetic testing, liquid penetrant testing, magnetic particle inspection, neutron radiography, thermography, ultrasonic testing or vibration analysis.

The technician in the current workplace must interpret the NDT results according to the applicable standards, guidelines or specifications. The technician is expected to record the activities and findings of the tests they perform on a daily basis in the form of a report. In the report, the NDT expert must outline the procedures they followed during the NDT test and provide the test results.

According to ZipRecruiter, the hourly wage for an NDT inspector in the USA can range from $12 to $48 per hour (approximately £8.86 to £35.43 per hour), depending on the location of the technician. Reimbursement for technicians varies considerably from state to state. Significant improvements have been made in technician training and certification requirements. Technician certification was not introduced until 1967 and a requirement for training was integrated into the programme. The present-day technician must be fully qualified and certificated. The American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) continues to improve technician certification requirements and opportunities. Different industries have their specific minimum certification requirements.

I can look back on 60 years of NDT experience and recognise the improvements in technology, detection accuracy and safety. My crystal ball shows me dramatic changes in the future, including higher scholastic requirements, greater robotic data collection and the use of artificial intelligence.

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