Thursday, October 22, 2020

What Does It Take to Be a Good Inspector?

 In my article titled, “So, You Want to Be an Inspector?” I mention the one thing that is the driving force of all qualities pertaining to a good inspector and that is, attitude. That will always be the cardinal rule for me and holds true for any position in any profession. But what else should a person bring to the “table” when they embark on the career path as an inspector? Here is a peek at some of the qualities or traits I believe makes a good inspector.

Generally, a lot of individuals who make a career change to inspection are bringing a certain knowledge and experience level with them. Whatever they have spent a significant amount of time doing in the past that can be applied to the oil and gas industry will most generally be their foundation to build off of once they start their inspection role. This experience and knowledge can come from a variety of sources. For most individuals, they have a background deep in one or more of the trades such as welding, coating, electrical/instrument, dirt, concrete, heavy equipment operations, piping, etc. There are also individuals who have backgrounds in supervisory roles, foremen, superintendents, operations, construction management, etc.

The foundation consisting of experience and knowledge that the individual brings will provide a familiar work platform for that new inspector. He or she will be used to the terminology and work practices of the tasks being performed. This familiarization can relieve a lot of stress, tension, and nervousness from an individual who is new to the inspection role. The ability to apply this knowledge in conjunction with the client’s specifications, standards, and procedures along with the implementation of safe work practices is the difference between being a good and a not-so-good inspector. It is imperative that once you have been hired as an inspector you familiarize yourself with the client’s intentions and requirements in relation to the work being performed and you understand them. A good inspector will take the time to do this even if it means spending some of their personal time. If a person is genuinely wanting to be the best at their profession, he or she will put in the effort. If they choose otherwise, they will be a subpar inspector at best and most likely will not progress enough to maintain a position on a project to completion.

An individual should be detailed orientated and at the same time be able to process the “big picture.” A good inspector will strive to know what everyone is doing at any given time (the big picture) and be able to observe specific details of these activities. There can be a lot of things taking place that the inspector will need to report on throughout the day. A good inspector will always carry a notepad to take notes and gather the information that is required for their reporting. I highly advise this practice regardless of your recall ability. I have discovered that even those who have a great memory will forget information. Do not take the chance, carry a notepad in your pocket. Side note: make sure you can read your handwriting!!

A good inspector does not let pride get in his or her way in performing their work. How well the individual can take praise and constructive criticism has an impact on whether they possess the abilities to be a good inspector. Perhaps you have heard of the terms being “thin-skinned” vs. “thick-skinned.” Simply put if you have a thick skin you can take whatever is unpleasant with a grain of salt and not let it affect your job performance. Also, you can keep “kudos” from stoking the ego and pushing it ahead of the performance of duties. A good inspector has a balance between these two situations.

A quality inspector can adapt to any scenario in the workplace. He or she will engage with personnel, get to know them, learn their names, and be able to extract the background and experience levels of everyone on the crew. Having the latter information can prove to be beneficial to the inspector indicating who might need additional oversight during the workday.

A good inspector will portray and exhibit his or herself as a team player and advocate for it. The inspector will participate and encourage other crew members to participate in safety meetings (tailgates) and make sure the subject matter of such meetings pertains to the tasks and environment for which the work is being performed. A good inspector proves trust and honesty and encourages the same from the crew.

A skilled inspector will verbalize in terms that include all personnel as one. For instance, using “we” instead of “I” or “you” gives an indication that you are including yourself and everyone else in the subject of conversation. This also promotes the team concept. For instance, there might be an issue with wearing safety glasses. Maybe some of the crew members have been slacking off in putting them on. The inspector should approach and say something along the lines of “Hey guys, we need to make sure we are wearing our safety glass.” This should also be a subject addressed the next day in the tailgate meeting (JSEA meeting).

Another trait (probably better labeled as a skill) depicting a good inspector is being able to communicate and extract information by way of asking questions. The bulk of work-related conversations during the day by the inspector should come in the form of questions. For the most part, most inspectors do not show up on the project knowing how to do this. I learned a similar technique when I was in law enforcement and through the years, I was able to incorporate it after few adjustments to where I could apply it as an inspector. I plan to go into more depth on this skill in another article. In short when an inspector asks a question it deems a response containing information. If an inspector makes a statement, it can be misconstrued as a direction. The last thing we as inspectors want is the contractor taking what we say as directing their work. My rule of thumb: Ask more questions and make fewer statements.

Inspectors who are firm but fair, possess humility, empathy, respect, kindness, and exhibit cultures of safety and teamwork will be way ahead of those who choose not to adopt and hone these traits.

There is so much more that can be said on this subject which I am planning on sharing with you soon. I hope you found some value in what I shared today.

Take care and be safe!

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