Inspectioneering Journal

A Thousand Important Roles & Responsibilities of the Plant Fixed Equipment Inspection and Mechanical Integrity Group

By John Reynolds, Principal Consultant at Intertek. This article appears in the July/August 2020 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Alright, perhaps it isn’t quite one thousand, but it’s getting pretty close and seems to increase every year. Whatever the ultimate number is, there are at least many dozens of key roles in most fixed equipment inspection and mechanical integrity (FEMI) groups in any hydrocarbon processing facility. In the January/February 2017 issue of Inspectioneering Journal, I published an article on the Fifty Important Roles and Responsibilities of the Plant Corrosion/Materials SME. For those that may have missed that article, it is still available in the Journal archives.[1] Continuing on the theme of that article, I have outlined herein the roles and responsibilities of the Plant FEMI Group. Why would I want to do that since most inspectors, chief inspectors, inspection SMEs, inspection supervisors, reliability engineers, etc. pretty much know all the issues that they are supposed to be doing on the job?

Here’s why – several reasons. When I participate in the API/AFPM Process Safety Site Assessment Program (PSSAP) as a FEMI SME, one of the things I always ask for at each site is a copy of the roles and responsibilities for all members of the FEMI group at the site. Frequently I find those documents to be woefully lacking in detail and thoroughness. Too often I find that the documented roles and responsibilities are overly brief and very generic (i.e., not very useful and sometimes even non-existent). I remember visiting one site whose inspection supervisor had six bullet points on his roles and responsibilities. I asked him what he did for the rest of the week after lunch on Monday. Sometimes the roles and responsibilities are so vague and brief that they contain only a very few bullet points with a smattering of HR clichés such as “work safe,” “do what your boss wants you to do,” “go forth and do good,” and other non-technical administrative duties. Herein, I’ve skipped all that other fluff that does not add to the FEMI needs of a process site and I’ve focused on the technical aspects of FEMI jobs.

Having detailed, thorough roles and responsibilities for our jobs typically don’t get much priority relative to all the important activities in our FEMI community of practice, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. But why are detailed, thorough roles and responsibilities important?

One of the big gaps I find at refining and petrochemical process sites is a huge lack of understanding (outside of the FEMI group) of what the entire FEMI group does for the site. I often find that the Site Leadership Team (SLT) typically only has a vague, high-level idea of what the FEMI group is supposed to be doing. Sometimes the turnaround manager thinks the primary role of the FEMI group is to slow down turnaround work by finding problems that need to be fixed just before startup. And the maintenance manager thinks the role of the FEMI group is mostly just a vast knowledge base ready and waiting to tell his foreman how to make repairs and “hold their hands” while doing their jobs. And the project manager thinks that the FEMI group is primarily there to slow down his projects and cause cost over-runs. And the technical manager doesn’t have a clue since we don’t have anything to do with increasing yield.

And sadly enough, too often, even the SLT member who has the FEMI group reporting directly to him/her doesn’t know in any detail of all the activities in which the FEMI group is involved. Hence, when the SLT manager comes to his/her Inspection Manager/Supervisor with another sudden large need for additional work activity (often due to a major failure somewhere in the industry or a head office directive), he/she has no real idea what other work has to be displaced or “put on the back burner” to accommodate this new activity. So, when I was an inspection supervisor some 100 years ago and that sort of thing happened to me, I would pull out my detailed, three-page roles and responsibilities, put it in front of my manager, and ask, “what is it on this list that you would like me to put aside while we take on all this extra work without any increase in staff or resources?” Sometimes this tactic worked and I got extra staff for the new workload. Other times, all I got was sympathy or a comment like “John, if you can’t get it done, I’ll find someone who can.” But in the end, it always helped for my supervisor to know how large the workload was for which my group was responsible.

I realize that no site can just copy the list below and use it as the roles and responsibilities for the FEMI group at their site because a lot of work activities vary from site to site. But hopefully, the list below will provide ideas that will help you update and make your role and responsibility descriptions more detailed and more definitive for the different jobs in your FEMI work group, including inspectors, inspection support engineers, chief inspectors, inspection supervisors, NDE specialists, etc. Since the list below most closely describes the roles and responsibilities for the entire FEMI group at a plant, the list may be most closely applicable to the roles and responsibilities of the Inspection Manager or Supervisor, but then need to be modified to describe a more specific role that each individual member of the FEMI group has, with regard to the totality of each individual FEMI issue included below. For example: take the roles and responsibilities of Inspection Planning: the inspector may have the role of creating the inspection plan from the IDMS information; the inspection supervisor may have the role of approving the inspection plan created by the inspector; the corrosion/materials SME may have the role of reviewing the inspection plan for the need to help designate where to look for localized corrosion or when to look for some less common damage mechanisms; and the NDE specialist may have a role in making sure the most appropriate, cost-effective NDE tools and techniques are included in the plan. Hence, the list below can be modified to include the actual responsibility of each person involved in each specific activity.

Hopefully, each item on this list of FEMI roles and responsibilities below will fit on someone’s work list at your site, so that managers on the SLT and other stakeholders in operations, maintenance, engineering, process safety, technical, etc. will come to know and appreciate the huge depth and breadth of the entire FEMI group at your site. Also, some of these roles and responsibilities may be shared with other people at the site that aren’t assigned to the FEMI group; but from my perspective, someone at each site needs to be accountable for making sure all the FEMI issues listed below are adequately handled in order to avoid leaks, failures, and process safety incidents that may occur.

A Thousand (Give or Take) Key Roles and Responsibilities

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by Ashiq Hussain on August 27, 2020
What is written in this article is basically... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Fernando Palminha on August 27, 2020
Excellent text.I read and enjoy all articles from... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by John Reynolds on August 29, 2020
Ashig, Thanks for your response. I don't... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by William Santos-Garcia on August 31, 2020
Mr. John Reynolds and Mr. G. Alvarado. I would... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Saeed Bafail on September 13, 2020
This is another valuable articles by Mr. John. I... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Huayu Zhang on April 13, 2021
I find pleasure to read this article. Thank you... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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