Reliability, quality assurance and IAQP

As I am about to criticise the content of a flyer I recently perused, I should emphasise that it was from outside my local area in order to protect the innocent. The objective of the flyer was to inform residents about actions that would be of general interest to them, as well as showing the producers of the flyer in a positive light. However, instead of absorbing the content, as the producers intended, I found myself distracted by the presence of many spelling and grammatical errors. Now, I must point out that I am not a pedant when it comes to spelling and grammar. I am far from infallible with my own literary output and I also accept that there may be a balance to be obtained between disseminating the information and ensuring that it is error free. However, the majority of the errors in the flyer were simple mistakes. Why was it allowed to go to print with these errors in it?

The first check should have been undertaken by the original author – a self-check. Unfortunately, time pressures mean that this check is often not undertaken properly. The author needs to have a break between completing the text and having a read through. Even with a break, it is easy for authors to read what they intended to write rather than what is actually written. In a presentation at the NDT Reliability Workshop I attended at the beginning of September, reference was made to some Cambridge University research that shows that, as long as the first and last letters of a word are correct, it does not matter what order the intermediate letters are in, the word can still be read correctly. An example of this was included in ‘On the Job’ in May 2007. While technology may be to blame for deterioration in spelling and grammar, it also provides tools to assist in achieving the correct outcome. Why do people not use the spell checker? Of course, this will not pick up on the use of the wrong word if it is spelt correctly!
Why does it matter? The mistakes in the flyer do not have safety or financial implications, but an accumulation of small errors conveys a lack of care or lack of attention to detail. This colours the reader’s perception of other activities carried out by the organisation responsible, which in turn can have greater consequences. In addition to the self-check, a review by another individual, experienced in producing communications, would be sufficient to catch the majority of errors. These two checks are quality assurance in action: quality assurance is ‘the maintenance of a desired level of quality in a service or product, especially by means of attention to every stage of the process of delivery or production’.

The NDT Reliability Workshop, mentioned above, was the seventh one to be held since its inception in 1997. An objective of this year’s workshop was to identify ways to transfer NDT human factors and reliability knowledge into practice through the promotion of positive benefits. To achieve this, it is necessary to identify a group of interested personnel and to encourage and support them in making NDT reliability and human factors a priority. With this in mind, I co-authored a paper with the Editor of NDT News on the synergy of the subjects of quality and NDT reliability. A variation on this paper was presented at the BINDT conference in Telford in the same week.
The requirements of international quality standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 17020 and ISO 17025 address many of the issues that are identified in NDT reliability and human factors studies: competence of personnel; application of the process; design and validation and verification. The overlap between the two disciplines was further strengthened with the 2015 update to ISO 9001. It now specifies the need to determine, provide and maintain the environment necessary to achieve the required application of the process. It highlights that a suitable environment can be a combination of social, psychological and physical factors. This means that human factors need to be considered and controlled.

So, how do we use this overlap between quality and NDT reliability to achieve the objective of the workshop? One idea, and it is just an idea at this stage, is to use the existing International Association of Quality Practitioners (see ‘On the Job’, March 2009) as a body to connect all personnel (operators, specialists, managers and academics) with a specific interest in QA/NDT reliability. The aims would be to promote the professional status of the practice of quality assurance in NDT and CM and to promote the practice of quality assurance principles to deliver the benefits of improved reliability of application. These would be achieved through the dissemination of knowledge and best practice.

So, what do you think? Is it a good idea? Or do you think it is a bad idea? Please send me, or the Editor, your comments and suggestions. And if you did go back and look at the March 2009 column, you would likely spot that there was an error (but not a spelling or grammatical error) in the text. Maybe next month’s column will be about people in glass houses!

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 Amec Foster Wheeler or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

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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