Inspectioneering Journal

How Many Inspectors Do You Need at Your Operating Site?

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


Sorry, but there’s no single answer for the question posed in the title of this article for all sites of similar size and capacity. And if someone tells you there is a typical or normal staffing number for your size facility without knowing the status of all the important fixed equipment mechanical integrity (FEMI) issues at your site, they don’t know what they are talking about. Staffing for comparably sized operating facilities can vary widely – up to 100-300% depending upon a variety of factors which I will cover in this article. For example, one facility processing 150K BPD of crude that rates high on all the issues covered below might be able to manage with five API certified and qualified process unit inspectors plus a few contract inspectors and data takers, while another of the same size that rates much lower on most of the same FEMI issues covered below might require 15-20 inspectors and lots of contractors to get all the reactive work done and still make necessary continuous improvements. 

We all know that there are a lot of additional demands on our FEMI work groups these days that didn’t exist 20-30 years ago.[11] Hopefully by the time you finish reading this article you will have a better understanding of what it will take to staff your particular facility with FEMI inspectors. Note that in this article, inspectors denote qualified/certified API authorized inspectors and does not include contract NDE examiners (e.g., UT data takers and radiographers). The staffing needs for NDE examiners will be covered in another article.

Do you think you need more inspectors to achieve excellence in FEMI? Do you struggle with how to justify hiring more inspectors to a management that does not see FEMI needs as profitable and would rather spend money on new instruments, new projects, increased production, etc.? Here’s a methodology that may help you justify adding inspectors to your staff, when you need them, that can improve site FEMI and reliability.

Issues that Affect Inspection Staffing Levels

There are at least ten primary issues that affect inspection staffing levels at any particular site that are beyond just the size and capacity of the site, and I’ve probably missed some. The more important ones that come to my mind include:

  1. Competence, experience, training, and qualification of the mix of site inspectors
  2. Engineering and SME staff available to support the inspection group in FEMI technology
  3. Management leadership and attitude toward FEMI programs
  4. Other duties that management expects of the site inspection group beyond the 101 Essential Elements[1] and documented inspector FEMI roles and responsibilities[2]
  5. Aggressiveness of site feedstocks and process conditions
  6. Number and size of special emphasis inspection programs (SEIP) still underway and/or needed
  7. Quality of site FEMI record-keeping systems
  8. Amount and quality of site documented FEMI management systems and procedures[3]
  9. The quality of the investigation and mitigation process to reduce discoveries, near-misses, leaks, and failures[4]
  10. The amount of QA/QC required of inspectors for projects and maintenance

In the next few sections I will comment on how each of these issues...

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by Grady Hatton on October 29, 2020
Once again Mr. Reynolds you came through just as... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Hanizan Mohd Husin on November 2, 2020
Thanks John on the valuable write up. Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Jose Jordan on November 17, 2020
Thanks Mr. Reynolds As always straight to the... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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