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This article appeared in PCE “Performance Coating Europe” An Inspectors

View from the Field
Qualifications vs Experience
In this issue Lee Wilson debates the topic of qualification of coating inspectors and
asks the question what really counts, qualification or experience.
I am often asked by inspectors, and others in the field, which approval should be
taken to gain, not only employment, but to progress one’s personal experience within
the industry ? My answer to this is always the same in regards to personal
professional development, and that is any or all of them! Let’s face it there are many
organisations offering education and training such as the NACE Coating Inspection
Programme or CIP. However Inspectors also need to consider the other painting and
coating inspection certification providers out there such as SSPC, FROSIO, B-GAS
and the UK’s Institute of corrosion or “ICorr”, all offering exceptional training,
examination and certification in protective coating inspection.
SSPC ( the Society for Protective Coatings) is an exceptional approval scheme
which runs a great number of inspection courses. The SSPC PCI programme is the
most predominant course available from SSPC and like many other approvals is built
upon a 3 tier certification programme of which the main objective is to
“thoroughly train individuals in the proper methods of inspecting surface preparation
and installation of industrial and marine protective coatings and lining systems on an
array of industrial structures and facilities” (SSPC Website Quote).
NACE CIP is delivered globally by NACE International who have been providing
certification and training for over 28 years
“The NACE Coating Inspector Program has set the standard for inspections in the
protective coatings industry and is the world’s most recognized coating inspector
certification program. CIP is the first international certification program designed to
improve the overall quality of inspections performed, and it continues to provide the
most complete training curriculum, producing top-notch inspectors for the industry”
(NACE Website Quote)
Frosio was established in 1986 in order to cope with demands for newbuild oil
installations which were being constructed for offshore Norway oil exploration and
production, and was introduced as a firewall between education and certification.
Frosio therefore do not deal with training, only examination and certification. The
actual training is provided by 3rd parties, for example the Hempel’s Paint Academy.
ICorr, FROSIO and B-Gas deal mainly with European and international standards
rather than the North American standards which are favoured by NACE and SSPC,
however NACE and SSPC training schemes cover both American and International
standards regardless of this, and with the exception of Frosio, they all have one thing

SSPC .215(82) Performance Standard for Protective Coatings for sea water ballast tanks which was developed in order to attempt to achieve a good tank coating for 15 years service. What has happened in practice is that each Class Society has had to issue a “type approval” for each qualification it accepts as being equivalent in terms of the regulation. to employ only the NACE II or Frosio approved Level III inspectors. 2. as there is clearly a simplified for inspectors by clients. who incorporate this standard into their corrosion control projects. it is up to the Administration. You just have to check out any oil and gas recruitment site to see that the vast majority of the oil majors are asking for NACE or Frosio qualifications in accordance with NS 476 certified inspectors. FROSIO Inspector Level III or equivalent as verified by the Administration. ICorr. Put simply if you are not certified by NACE or Frosio then ultimately you are not in conformance with the standard requirements which prompts owners and operators alike. SSPC and B-GAS ? Well its leaves them high and dry. help with personnel development. to decide if these qualifications are acceptable under the PSPC regulations. or certified as NACE Coating Inspector level II. but I’m not aware of attempts to get the ‘old’ B- . What does “equivalent” mean within the PSPC. and this means the Classification Societies. NACE and Frosio have also gone as far as ensuring that their approval schemes and certification levels have become incorporated into industry standards such as the Norsok M501 and the IMO PSPC resolution. For example section 10. So where does this leave our colleagues who are certified by institutes such as ICorr. in addition to teaching individuals how to carry out inspections and how to develop their inspection techniques. This is also very similar to the IMO MSC. ICorr or B-Gas inspector? Well even though the SSPC Protective coating inspector certificate is recognised as an equivalent to NACE 2 and Frosio III. However the same cannot be said at this moment in regards to employment. particularly in the oil and gas sectors. Why is this I hear you say? Well in my opinion it’s rather simple! NACE have marketed their approval not only of inspectors on a global scale but have also ensured that the benefits of their Coating Inspection Programme (CIP) are recognised by the industry. 5 of the Norsok standard M-501 clearly states that: Personnel carrying out inspection or verification shall be qualified in accordance with NS 476 Inspector Level III. This is the route SSPC and ICorr have common. they teach individuals how to inspect surface preparation and application of protective coating systems. This is clearly not a should but a shall and a clear standard requirement. does this include the SSPC. and the B-Gas approval schemes will. The IMO PSPC calls for coating inspectors to be certified to NACE Coating Inspector Level 2.

My only hope at present is that the other approval schemes such as the Institute of corrosion (ICorr). I believe to date there are less than 50 Icorr level 3 certified inspectors globally. This is reflected by the number of ICorr level 3 certified inspectors. It’s a simple concept! And due to this we see well qualified and experienced individuals . as they are. NACE SSPC ICorr Frosio B-Gas 1 1 1 1 White 3 2 2 2 2 Green 2 3 (Peer review) 3 3 3 Red 1 Approximate Equivalence in Certifications with those highlighted in red specified for PSPC and Norsok M501 By having NACE and Frosio certification incorporated into these standards and by promoting their approval schemes upon a global scale has ultimately led to a huge industry demand for NACE and Frosio certified Inspectors. letting their customers down. However in the eyes of the above standards individuals possessing this qualification are unable to carry out the inspection requirements of the above mentioned standards regardless of their capabilities. There seems to be a huge debate raging within the industry today in regards to suitable qualification for protective coating inspection. some who have been in the industry for many years and have vast ship building experience. rather than relying on “equivalency”. Inspectors are regularly asking which inspection approval is the most suitable qualification to obtain. not only for the technical knowledge needed for inspection. However. who can no longer work in the yards simply because they do not possess the relevant qualification to abide by the regulations. SSPC and BGAS also push for incorporation into such standards. Returning to the question originally approval which is very difficult to achieve. ICorr is a truly remarkable inspection approval . Norsok M501 is one of the most widely used painting standard certainly on the UKs continental shelf so as one can well imagine a lot of good guys are losing out. let’s face it. but also to ensure the best possible chance of employment within the industry (let us face facts. . for simplicity. it is this last question which is ultimately what it’s all about). clients would rather have an inspector who is qualified as specified.Gas certification approved. I am sure that this trend of qualification and standard incorporation will continue as it is good to have a minimum level of inspection certification specified.

This resulted in inexperienced inspectors i. It is well believed that this approval was mass marketed and ultimately became devalued across the industry. Having level 3 certification or specialist certification from any approval body does not mean that you are a Formula 1 racing driver regardless of which approval body is issuing certification. It is the actual inspection approval which suffers. However this is clearly apparent by the current industry demand. The very same can be said about inspectors. you just have to look at the history of B-Gas approval which was once regarded as the ultimate in inspection approval circles and held with the upmost of integrity and regard.e. I believe NACE are simply answering the demand for certification coming from the industry. And who suffers ? Everyone who possesses that qualification! It’s a shame because it was and is a real good inspection certification however it is a victim of its own creation. Do not get me wrong this was not because of the actual technical content of the approval but because it was mass marketed. It is ultimately the clients who dictate which approval their inspector should . I believe it is this point which is most important and firmly believe that there should be far greater emphasis on monitoring individual field experience prior to entering further level training and examination. For example the qualification route for NACE. It is how you perform on the circuit which ultimately governs whether you are a good inspector / driver or not. guys who have the tickets but not the required knowledge nor experience to use the certificate to its full advantage. (This is of course is only my opinion and we all know what opinions are like) but to prove my point on this topic how often do you now see requirements for certified B-Gas inspectors? As we all know it’s rare compared to 10 / 15 years ago when almost all inspectors held a level of B-Gas CSWIP certification. In my opinion it is however not the inspector nor driver in our road analogy who suffers once they break the rules or don’t perform in the field. One of the main questions now being asked by inspectors within the protective coating inspection industry today is: Is this now being repeated?. Perhaps this is quite a strong statement. We are all well aware that despite having a driving licence there are many good and bad drivers. and this comes with not only certification but also with a great deal of experience and of course professional integrity. really is a truly remarkable technical qualification The entry requirements for Frosio are even better. My problem is at present I really can’t answer this. if adhered to in regards to the required experience for each individual level before certification is issued. you can sit the course and pass the examination but ultimately it is how you perform on the roads which really counts.Otaining an inspection approval is much like obtaining a driving licence.

so the industry responds. Fortunately this can be rectified. I strongly believe that both attributes are just as important as each other and both are absolutely essential for the coating inspector. Simply put. Ultimately you can have all the qualifications in the world however if you do not have practical experience of how to use this learned knowledge the results can be and often are catastrophic. contractors and employers i.a requirement which is incorporated into many of the approval schemes. We have to remember that NACE have been running for over 28 years with over 30. FROSIO EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS Colour Level Experience Required White 1 No Experience Required Green 2 2 Years Red 3 5 Years I would also say that if you break the driving rules (again using our driving analogy) you get your licence taken away and become in effect banned from driving.000 inspectors globally and I am sure there are some bad apples amongst this figure but the same can be said about any of the other approval bodies. Currently NACE is in favour.possess and at what level. It is no great secret that there are many highly certified inspectors without field experience who are masquerading as protective coating specialists however this is not something which can be blamed upon the approval schemes.e. the blame here lies firmly with the owners and operators whom employ individuals primarily due to the fact that they possesses a certificate. hence the essential need for a level of experience for certification entry . certification societies can’t be responsible for individual integrity but they are however fully responsible for ensuring that the inspectors who wish to progress through their certification levels have the desired experience to qualify for entry this is where I believe the mistakes are made. what really counts qualification or experience? Well in my opinion I think this is quite simple and reflected by most of the approval schemes. . yes! This brings us to the other question which I am regularly asked and which is regularly debated between Inspectors. Should the same principles not exist for inspectors who do not abide by the rules of the inspection bodies code of ethics? My answer to this is absolutely.

A simple background check of the candidate’s CV and work history as well as a reference checks and a face to face or telephone interview should always be carried out as a minimum by clients looking to recruit. so a potential employer does not really have to look too far.Owners and operators need to ensure that the inspectors that they are recruiting are capable of doing the job! A certificate does not always ensure this. They also need to determine the individual’s integrity. Do not employ inspectors just because they have the ticket! Experience and professional integrity are just as vital. . usually the inspector is only as good as there last job.