Let’s Be Frank: Who is Inspector Frank?

By Inspector Frank. August 27, 2020

Editor’s Note:  Writing under the pseudonym Inspector Frank, the author of this column offers a first-hand, candid view of what he has witnessed throughout his career. His purpose in sharing these experiences and opinions is to encourage readers to think deeper about what they do, why they do it, and the possible impact of their decisions.

Inspectioneering is committed to protecting the anonymity of pseudonymous authors. We do, however, hold these contributors to the same editorial standards as those writing under their own name. In this, we know the author’s identity and maintain communications regarding the author’s published works. If you have any questions, feedback, or concerns stemming from this article, please send an email to and we will forward your correspondence to the appropriate party.

“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer.”

― Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

But really, who is Inspector Frank?

I was actually a little shocked that some people figured out who I was after the first article or two. Then again, I have always suspected that I was not nearly as smart or crafty as I thought I was. But seriously, it is a valid question but I don’t want it answered specifically for some obvious reasons. I will share what I can though.

Frank is a lot of things. He is a combination of experiences I have had or seen and people I have met during my career thus far in equipment integrity (EI). He has enriched me and driven me mad. Frank has also allowed me to say things publicly I wouldn’t say under my own name for fear of potential effects on my career or retribution from past and current employers.

While Frank is my voice, I would also like him to be everyone’s voice. I would like to believe Frank makes people think. Think about the various things that make or break how EI functions in a petrochemical plant. Think about how they manage or are managed.

I would like Frank to make people reconsider how they do things and how they think about things. Mostly, I would hope that Frank engages people and makes them want to do and be better.

I hope Frank sometimes makes you mad, want to argue, or even start a fight. That means you are passionate about what you do. I would like to believe that, when you read an article by Frank, it makes you think about similar issues or events that you have experienced.

But enough about me, back to Frank.

Frank is the NDE tech who just wants to do her job. She is competent but not imaginative. She is skilled at doing the testing but has no desire to do any more with her career. She will follow directions and the appropriate procedures, and will even make calls if she is given a pass/fail criterion to follow. Beyond that, it isn’t her problem and she won’t want to get involved. She knows more sacrifices won’t make the companies she works for treat her any better. She enjoys the freedom and opportunities to travel that her career thus far has given her.

Frank is the grizzled and bitter old API 510 inspector who works as an owner/user inspector for younger managers, some of whom are just hungry for promotion and status. He has forgotten more than they currently know. He has been passed over for promotion many times, but it does not crush his ego. What crushes his ego is watching these young managers make the same mistakes over and over again. That’s what makes him bitter. Watching as the same things are created and then recreated over and over and over again and progress gets reset each time.

Frank is the inspector who is doing his job competently but seems checked out. He can’t help but constantly wonder in the back of his mind how his son is doing with his chemotherapy treatments and he wishes he could afford to be there with him all of the time.

Frank is the smart NDE tech who has learned on his own and knows way more about manufacturing issues and damage mechanisms than most of the owner/user inspectors he works for. Unfortunately, unless things work out just right, no one is going to listen to him or understand how capable he is. He may find or create an opportunity at some point in his career to move upwards and onwards. He may not.

Frank is the engineer who was promoted into a position mostly because his boss thought he would be a good “yes man.” He is trying his best and may get the hang of it eventually, but in the meantime, it is hard on him and his team. Had his supervisor been competent and mentored him into the new role, all of this may have played out differently.

Frank is the inspector who turns down all after-work activities and seems quite guarded about her personal life. She is respected and diligent but no one ever feels close to her. People don’t know she spends all of her time (and is needlessly embarrassed by) taking care of her dad who has Alzheimer’s. All of her income goes to the day nurse who takes care of him when she is at the plant. She is self-conscious and scared to open up to anyone around her for fear of being judged.

Frank is the engineer with a young family at home. He is very competent but becoming jaded because he’s continually dealing with the inefficient bureaucratic machine that is big oil. He works hard but refuses to do anything above and beyond because he realizes the deck isn’t stacked to reward that behavior. He is still considered one of the best young engineers in the facility.

Frank is the metallurgy nerd – the one who spends his free time reading technical articles. The one who makes people inwardly groan and zone out when he starts talking at meetings. The one who is never invited out for beers after work. The one who gets excited when the weld procedure keeps failing because it gives him a place to be involved and show his worth.

Frank is the bright young female inspector who is smart and competent and striving to do well in a male-dominated work environment. You know, the one that gets “cat calls” when she is out in the unit. Her workday gets endlessly interrupted by male colleagues who just had to stop by to chat about some useless crap. The young woman who hears the room go silent when she walks in because someone was telling a sexist joke and doesn’t want to have to talk to HR about harassment. She is endlessly careful with her wardrobe choices because something as simple as what she wears can get her a bad reputation. Her career ambitions and past experience demand that she constantly considers how nice she is for fear of being labeled with an attitude problem. Sometimes she gets called an “ice queen” behind her back because she refuses to have anything but professional relationships at work.

Frank is the foreign inspector who is working hard and staying cheerful while waiting to make it through the citizenship process. He is also trying to get his foreign education recognized in this new country. Everyone thinks he is a great and friendly guy. They don’t know there is more than what meets the eye. Very few of his fellow employees realize how tired he really is and the stress he is under to make this work. He gets up every morning at 3am just so he can read to his two children who are still back home as they fall asleep in their beds.

Frank is the “by the book” engineer who follows his RBI program frequency data blindly. However, he can’t stand the concept that RBI is only a predictive, relative risk tool and is only as good as the data and effort put into it. He is 100% convinced that you just need to follow the program.

Frank is the manager who listens to his budget being cut and has no idea how he is going to follow his mandate to maintain integrity now.

Frank is the inspector watching a fireball rise over his refinery who hopes no one got hurt and is already trying to figure out what might have gone wrong. He is running towards the fire when everyone else is running away.

But mostly, Frank is an individual who has always felt they could do better. Frank wants the world to be better. Frank loves to see people working hard and living up to their capabilities. Frank loves to learn but also to share knowledge. Frank does get jaded and bitter but finds a way to bring their best when it is most needed, even at personal cost. Sometimes, Frank is a know-it-all, but then meets someone or comes across something that makes them realize they know nothing. Frank is an endless work in progress with ever-changing goalposts...

Frank is the collective whole of we who strive to “guard the gates” and keep the process in the pipes. Without the Franks of the world, we would be much worse off as an industry.

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by Abdulrahman Alghamdi on August 29, 2020
Thank you for this article and guess we need more... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Majid Saghiri on September 7, 2020
Well said . Now I don't feel be alone anymore Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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