2014 wishes

At the beginning of December, one of the stories in the media was that the attorney general was to publish guidance on Twitter to help prevent people from tweeting about legal cases and committing a contempt of court. Putting comments on Twitter is a lot different to writing this column. Twitter is designed for short, sharp comments, which means that when they are in response to a trigger event they need to be tweeted as soon as possible after the trigger to be relevant. As a result, tweets can be a gut or emotional response to such an event: time is not given to the composition of the content, nor thought given to how people may react to the tweet. In the past, such emotional responses would be disseminated amongst a small group of friends, who would understand the emotion, the context and the reason, and that would be the end of it. A tweet literally goes out to anyone and everyone and can quickly land the tweeter in hot water.

Luckily for me, the nearest this column has come to being an emotional outpouring has been when I have done the two Pen-et-Rant columns. Even though the column is on the web for anyone and everyone to see, it has such a lackadaisical impact that no-one is driven to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. However, as someone who is prone to talk – OK, sometimes shout – at the television and radio, I am glad I do not tweet. Only this week, I could have easily been tempted to fire off a tweet in response to discussions on the TV, and who knows what the consequences would have been.

Evidently, the 2013 OECD league tables, which chart educational standards across the developed world, ranked the UK as 26th for maths and 21st for science, the latter being a drop from 16th in 2010. This stimulated the usual debate about our education system and the need to get more children into science, technology and engineering. As with the discussion on getting more girls/women into engineering, which had been held a month or so before, the various participants, in my opinion, instead of addressing the real issues, skirt around them and talk of the ‘getting dirty’ image of engineering scaring off youngsters, and particularly girls, from choosing it as a career.

The nub of the problem, again in my opinion, can be illustrated by a notice I saw not too long ago: ‘The door is out of action and we are waiting for an engineer to fix the handle.’ I know that as technology advances the engineering disciplines sub-divide and new ones are instigated, but I have yet to see a degree in door handle engineering! The engineering profession is not understood by the general public and the title of ‘engineer’ is allowed to be too widely used. There are other reasons, which it is not possible to go into now, but engineering should be up there alongside medicine, dentistry and law.

January is when we look forward to the year ahead. On a personal level, we make resolutions to achieve goals in the year and the media is full of predictions of what will be successful and make an impact in business, technology, sport and the arts. So, I thought I would follow suit and make a list of things I wish to see happen in 2014.

The first wish is tied in to the discussion above, and is the wish to see the NDT profession recognised more widely as an important profession and career in its own right. However, this can only be achieved if the profile of engineering in general is raised. This needs to happen.

NDT will only be given due consideration if the industry is able to show that it provides real cost and time benefits to businesses. To do this we need to promulgate our successes and publicise the consequences of not applying NDT appropriately. My second wish is that a mechanism for doing this be developed and implemented.

I would like to see an industry agreement that requires all NDT procedures to have a statement of capability included at the front.

I wish that all operators be given some awareness training in human factors and human factors knowledge be applied during inspections.

Finally, I would like to see a mechanism instigated for the promulgation, and the signing-up to by plant owners, of the code of conduct generated by the PANI 3 Management Committee.

Do you agree? What would you like to see happen in 2014? If my wishes for 2014 have caused an emotional ripple, then don’t tweet, send a considered email to the editor.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of the IVC, AMEC or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Comments by members

Comment by RF Lyon
North Somerset, United Kingdom

Date 10/02/2014

You may not find it surprising that I am in total agreement with the author, as I have worked with Bernard McGrath for many years, particularly with the HSE PANI projects and the Best Practice Guides.

For many years, particularly during my time at RWE I have been arguing up the status of NDT, in fact, I didn’t allow anyone in RWE to refer to the people in the NDT Group as anything other than NDT Engineers because that is what they are; they are a link in the overall quality chain and like any other link, they are vital to the integrity of the chain. I can’t think of any other profession that requires its workforce to re-demonstrate its competence every five years but we mustn’t be complacent, we must ensure we work to the highest standards and continue to fight our corner.

For years I worked in an organisation that positively discriminated in order to establish a quota of women and minorities in the workplace but quite frankly, if it was me that was treated that way, I would find it quite condescending; what we need to do is to ensure that there is equal opportunity in NDT and if that is the case, women and other minorities will prevail if they so wish.

I particular agree with Bernard’s comments on training for human factors but I also think we ought to be making people aware on the consequences of failure to carry out NDT properly and the importance of the Code of Conduct. So much so, that I would include these subjects as mandatory parts of the PCN General Theory examination.

Just a final word on communication; I am a modern technology Luddite (so my sons say), I don’t subscribe to UTube, I am not connected to LinkedIn, I am not on Facebook and I don’t Tweet. However, I think that communication is essential in our industry and providing they are not misused or abused, they are excellent communicative vehicles.

Must go now, I have a door handle to fix!

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