Two Minute Tips  

Safety in Thermal Imaging

PJ Cloete | Contract Manager and Technical Authority, AVT Reliability

Across the world the approach to safety is quite varied, and one can easily become complacent if you do not take a wider view of it.

In many forums, regardless of the engineering discipline or matter of social interest, there will be varying views about what is acceptable in terms of safety or what should be common knowledge. People tend to become very passionate about their views and may become quite agitated when theirs are not accepted. Nobody likes to hear that what they have been taught, and is part of their culture, is not seen as correct.

What is not often accounted for is the background or culture of the individuals involved in the discussions. This is an extremely important oversight, and one that should be dealt with through education. Let us make it our mission, in our thermal imaging community, to learn more about how others operate. I live by the mantra of “seek first to understand”.

Having been exposed to many cultures during my working life I have found that every single culture values safety. How they achieve this does vary greatly.

Take the difference in approach to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as an example. In North America PPE is one of the primary focuses when performing electrical thermal inspections. The level of PPE is defined by applying the guidelines as specified within NFPA-70-E.

On the other hand we have the European, and in my case the British and ISO standards, which focus on removing the hazard through removal of access, or engineering the hazard out of the system. PPE being the last level of protection. PPE is considered to be the least effective manner to deal with a hazard.

Neither of the approaches are wrong. Neither are perfect. But, both are trying to achieve the same goal, a SAFE working environment.

My final thought is this: whether you are new to travelling the world in terms of applied thermal imaging; if you are commenting on a thermal imaging forum relating to safety practices; or if you are the lead engineer of a global company and responsible for setting up a thermal imaging or condition monitoring program across the group. Remember, you have to consider the culture your teams are working within and the local safety guidelines they must adhere to.

Seek first to understand. Be Safe

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About the Author

PJ Cloete Contract Manager and Technical Authority, AVT Reliability

PJ’s early career years were spent within the mining sector and specifically with a major international mining organisation in South Africa, where he worked in both surface processing plants and underground areas. After five years at the forefront of operational roles, PJ was promoted to a corporate position as a senior machinery inspector. In this role he provided leading support of reliability focused services to gold, platinum, diamond, iron ore and zinc mines in Southern and Central Africa, leading machinery reliability program improvements.