TU Delft thesis finds safety programs ‘flawed’

Researcher finds industry slow to adopt non destructive testing, advocates greater independence.

Casper Wassink has just received a PhD from TU Delft for his iconoclastic work on non-destructive testing (NDT) and safety systems in refineries and other plants. Wassink found that potentially life-saving new technologies can spend ‘decades’ gathering dust before industry is forced to implement them—often following a major accident. Wassink’s study found accidents are not caused by technological or regulatory failure but rather by cultural issues and compartmentalization in the sector. Wassink explained, ‘The practice of dividing budgets into a number of separate stockpiles for inspection and maintenance and the ensuing cost cutting has led to a culture in which NDT departments have developed an aversion to innovation and look no further than the next quarterly report.

As a result, innovations that reduce safety risks but which only start to yield cost savings in the longer term are left on the shelf. To bring about a change in this undesirable situation requires the cooperation of the science, service provision and industrial sectors with the common aim of innovating more rapidly.’ What is often overlooked in industry is the fact that NDT is performed with two different objectives—a social one, to safeguard the public, and a commercial one, to optimize asset availability. Ideally, monitoring should be independent of industry, but current government policy is leaning in the opposite direction with the privatization of key NDT positions. More from ApplusRTD.

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