Editor’s note: This NDT Ethics article is published in conjunction with the April 2024 issue of Materials Evaluation. Published quarterly, each NDT Ethics column presents ethics issues and readers are welcome to comment on this post. Readers are also invited to email column editor Toni Bailey with their own ethical scenarios, which may be featured in future columns.

Welcome to Materials Evaluation’s quarterly column on ethics in nondestructive testing (NDT). This month, we take a hard look at the subject of signing off on defective parts and components that were never inspected. When we read news of fraud committed by NDT personnel, we may find ourselves quite shocked and in disbelief. With so many ethics violations occurring, we must take a moment to ask ourselves what would drive an NDT technician to knowingly commit fraud, which is defined as “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial gain or self-satisfaction.”

Let’s take a look at two scenarios in which the reader can determine how each scenario violates the intent of ASNT’s Code of Ethics.

Knowingly Signing Off Defective Parts: Financial Gain

A Level II magnetic particle testing (MT) inspector was designated as the company’s MT technique developer. He was the senior-most technician in the number of years at his job. Soon after, the company was purchased by a larger company and the workload increased significantly, but the inspector’s pay did not change. After several years of insufficient pay, the MT inspector became disgruntled with the company. The MT inspector became desperate for cash, so he made a secret deal with one of the company’s customers. The agreement was to MT inspect 800 ferrous parts faster and cheaper, in exchange for direct cash payments to himself (hence, financial gain).

Unfortunately, 10% of the parts had large defects but rather than rejecting the flawed parts, he documented the linear indications as “nonrelevant,” accepted 100% of the parts, and signed the MT inspection paperwork. The ferrous parts were shipped to a plating (coating) facility, and when the plating company visually saw linear flaws with lengths ranging from 0.125 up to 2.5 in. long, they reported the findings back to the inspection company. Upon investigation, the company’s Responsible Level III revoked the technician’s Level II certification for unethical behavior, and he was fired from the job.

Signing Off Components That Were Not Inspected: Self-Satisfaction

In the previous situation, the NDT inspector’s actions were driven by financial needs, but sometimes actions are driven by selfish, lazy behaviors. In this next scenario, three gamma radiographers were working the night shift performing film radiographic testing (RT) on the welded areas of a submarine at a naval shipyard. The inspectors only had four hours left on their 12-hour shift and they were all eager to leave the shipyard early to attend a party. The radiographs they had taken so far all looked virtually the same, with no relevant indications, so rather than radiograph the remaining welds, the inspectors radiographed the same area of welds repeatedly with different lead identifications to pretend they had inspected all of the weld sections.

With the job “completed” four hours early, the inspectors were free to leave work, although they did not radiograph at least 25% of the welded areas on the submarine (hence, self-satisfaction). The RT Level II inspectors had knowingly committed fraud by signing off that 100% of all welds had no defects in the radiographs. What the inspectors did not know was that a critical high-pressure section of the submarine had several welds with porosity and lack-of-penetration defects that exceeded limits. Six months later the submarine had an explosion and two people were killed. A subsequent investigation determined that the explosion was due to failure of the weldments that were not radiographed. The radiographers were prosecuted, found guilty of fraud, and sentenced to prison for committing fraud on a military vehicle.

We now ask you, the reader, to think about the decisions made by the aforementioned inspectors and your thoughts on the results of their choices. Are you familiar with ASNT’s Code of Ethics and do you have any stories regarding any similar situations that you have encountered in your career?


Antionette Bailey: TB3 NDT Consulting LLC; ASNT/NAS 410 NDT Level III (MT, PT, RT, UT, ET, IRRSP);

Read the original article on the ASNT Blog here.