Being prepared for the unexpected

‘A picture paints a thousand words.’ This is a well-known, well-used and very apt phrase. Unfortunately, it is not always true. The specially commissioned picture shown below only paints 517 words because there is something, or rather someone, missing. The 483 words that form this article are needed to describe why and to prompt you to do some critical thinking over the forthcoming Christmas break.

Many of you may already be familiar with the video of the winning penalty in the shootout that took place between the Bangkok Sports Club and Satri Angthong towards the end of October. The video was shown on BBC television and can be viewed online at: For those of you who have not seen it, I will describe it to you with the help of the picture. The person missing from the picture is the goalkeeper, who was standing on the goal line when the penalty taker stepped up and kicked the ball towards the goal. The ball hit the crossbar and ricocheted up into the air, at which point the goalkeeper started celebrating and ran out of the goal towards the halfway line. As we all know, what goes up must come down and the ball bounced next to the disappointed penalty taker, who had just watched the goalkeeper run past him. Suddenly, the relative fortunes switched: the spin on the ball caused it to head towards the goal after it had bounced, the penalty taker was transformed from dejection to celebration and the goalkeeper ran in vain after the ball as it crossed the line.

We can empathise with the goalkeeper. After all, the ball hit the crossbar and went upwards. Who would have predicted that the ball would change direction on the bounce? In NDT, and at work in general, we need to be able to cope with the unexpected. One way of doing this is to learn from both our own and others’ experiences: all future penalty-facing goalkeepers will know that they need to watch the ball until it goes dead. However, without the hindsight that this learning experience has granted them, what could a goalkeeper do differently in order to save their blushes? How can we prepare for the unexpected without burdening ourselves with countless, probably redundant, actions?

I started with a well-known saying and will close with another, perhaps more contentious, one: ‘All accidents are preventable.’ One definition of the word accident is an unforeseen event. Whether it is finding or sizing a defect or keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe, what can help us to be ready for the unexpected and prevent the ball from crossing the line? I will report back your suggestions and comments in the New Year.

In the meantime, I wish you and your families a happy Christmas. Thank you for taking the time to read this column during the year.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Wood or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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