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Wilkinson Coutts & Matthews Integrity Training

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WILKINSON COUTTS / MATTHEWS INTEGRITY HUB: an up-to-the-minute information mix designed to help you with your lifework and career development in the asset integrity, inspection and NDE industries.

Matthew Petroleum Notes


This title ‘Engineer Surveyor’ itself is a bit of a misnomer. The term ‘Surveyor’ is more commonly used in relation to civil engineering or some kind of dimensional measurement activities. In mechanical inspection however, it refers to in-service inspection of small statutory plant items. Maybe this is something to do with some long-lost historical use of the term in the insurance industry; nevertheless, it is in common use in this specific part of the inspection industry.

Typical job titles in this part of the industry include:

  • Insurance inspector
  • Inspection surveyor
  • Engineer surveyor
  • Pressure vessel and/or lifting equipment inspector
  • ‘Third party’ inspector

The job

These rather loose titles describe mainly the job of the home-based inspector of low technology items of pressure equipment, lifting equipment, and a few other machinery types.  The periodic in-service inspection of these items is driven by the requirements of statutory legislation (PSSR and LOLER in the UK) and government regulations, or just accepted industry practice elsewhere. Inspections are limited to fairly simple functional, visual or ultrasonic thickness examinations with short proforma report sheets.

For some reason, these statutory inspections are often misconceived by the equipment owners as being ‘insurance inspections’ on behalf of an insurance company policy for the equipment. Generally, this is untrue, so there is no need for the inspector to have any particular knowledge of the insurance industry. Insurance companies do sometimes inspect plant for risk assessment or claim purposes, but this is a completely different business, so don’t confuse the two.

An inspector’s typical day might include four or five inspection visits in different locations, with travelling in-between. Typical equipment inspected will be air receivers, coffee boilers, lifting equipment, elevators, garage equipment, fork-lift trucks, exhaust fans etc. Inspections are short and soon fall into a pattern of daily repetition. This suits some people, and they get to go home every night.

Skill levels and certification

Skill levels required are low compared to that required for in-service inspection of complex power station or refinery plant. There is no mandatory qualification or certification in most countries so a lot depends on the previous experience of the individual inspector and the company procedures they work to.

Practical-v-academic ability

Little formal mathematical or academic ability is required to actually do these jobs, although some employers may ask for it. Previous practical experience will be much more useful to you, with an understanding of pressure/lifting equipment construction codes, basic welding, NDT and the corrosion/damage mechanisms affecting in-service equipment. For this reason, employers in this sector tend to like to recruit already-experienced people. Some run training schemes of sorts, but these are as much to do with company practices, reporting and admin procedures than making you into a technical powerhouse.

Are the skills transferrable?

Not very. Inspectors working in this role soon become typecast into the procedures of repetitive inspections and rarely look to expand their knowledge or experience outside their current comfortable boundaries. Employers in other industries realise this. One route that you sometimes see is inspectors being seconded to larger companies whose plant they have been inspecting for years. This is fairly rare, although a lot of people talk about it. Transfer is always possible between inspection employers in the same field but your day-to-day role as an inspector will remain much the same, just with someone else in charge and different-looking computer forms to fill in.

What’s a typical 20-year career plan?

There probably isn’t one. It’s a comfortable home-based job with some day-to-day personal freedom but 20 years in the role will probably give you one year’s experience, repeated twenty times. This is fine if you like operating in your comfort zone and acting like an inspector on sites that you visit.20 years will soon pass by. The end game is either transferring to an office-based co-ordination role (difficult) or reverting to a part-time inspector role as the years progress.

Salary levels

This is one of the lower-paid roles in the inspection world. Rates can be 20-30% above that of manufacturing or NDT companies but rarely get much better. An advantage is that you often get a little company car to drive around in, if you like that sort of thing.

Becoming an independent inspector

There is not much point in working in an inspection role if you don’t like inspecting things. If you do, then there is always a role as an independent self-employed inspector to consider. There are many of these making a reasonable living in specific geographical areas or working for plant owner/users that don’t like big inspection company procedures or fees.

If you can build up an established client base then you are rewarded with inspections having to be renewed periodically, giving you repeat business for zero sales effort. Expect to find restrictions placed in your way if you want to work in high-risk businesses such as oil & gas or nuclear sites. For these you may be expected to hold all manner of expensive insurance policies against you causing damage, delays or general Armageddon to the site, which can make it hardly worth the bother.

Finally: Walking like an inspector

YOU KNOW, it’s just possible that some small-plant inspectors (surveyors, third party inspectors or whatever they call themselves) quite like the idea of being an inspector. You get to walk around with a mildly disapproving look on your face and people will ask you what you want, rather than telling you what to do. You have a legitimate reason for doing the inspections and so people will generally accept your presence as essential, without too much complaint.

The good thing about the small plant world is that you are not likely to have your technical knowledge as an inspector questioned too often (small-plant owners being either too busy or not that interested), so you can look like you know it all. Don’t try this on a refinery or similar site though; they are less easily impressed.

Check out our sample interview questions for small-plant inspector jobs.


If you want to check your knowledge for a specific job role in the integrity industry then try our trial technical interview.  Its purpose is to test you on the technical aspects of the job you are thinking of applying for.  There's no time limit on it but expect it to last at least 20 minutes.  After the discussion we'll give you honest feedback on how you did.  Just let us know the type of position you are going for; we'll do the rest and respond with at time slot for you to call us.

There's no charge, but we will expect you to call us at the allocated time and be ready to answer technical questions.

Remember your trial interview is on a purely technical subjects.  We are not interested in you personality traits, do-gooding activities or any wonderful extra-curricular interests you may have.

Technical Interview


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