The Wisdom of Forgetting What You Know

Written by: Brent Boling

A recent post on the AWS Member Network forum drew much needed attention to the importance of keeping up-to-date with the latest information, technology, and methods in the welding industry. What follows is an edited version of that post written by Brent Boling, an AWS CWI (Certified Welding Inspector) and Bolting Inspector with 40 years of experience in the welding industry. To see the post in its original form sign up for an AWS membership and add your voice to the discussion on the AWS Member Network.

Watching the progress in our industry, and especially in the Inspections arena, I see and hear things that on occasion astound me. A couple of recent threads on the AWS Welding Forum brought this into even closer focus. Upon reflection, I realized that many of us inspectors need to RESET.

Let me explain. I was recently in South Carolina on a job doing VT and consulting. While there, I heard an excellent message by a local pastor on ‘Resetting Our Lives’. This particular morning the pastor was speaking about ‘Resetting Our Minds’. Now, apart from the obvious intent of resetting our spiritual mind, life, and direction, I was struck by the importance of resetting to our job as inspectors. As applied to inspection, ‘reset’ can mean: to return to the original state; to clear out all the old and bring in the new; to tear down the old foundation and start over; to turn the clock back on your computer to get it to where it was last operating as it should.

Why would an inspector need to reset? Well, there are times when we need to back up a little because some faulty information has contaminated our knowledge base and sent us spiraling in the wrong direction. In fact, sometimes we need to tear down the whole structure, clear past the original foundation, so that we can build upon the most recent and accurate information. Stretching the analogy further, we might ask what happens when a new multi-story building is built. Do they knock down the walls and build on the old foundation? NO! Decay, different code application, and different engineering are just some of the reasons that this usually does not suffice. Sometime during our careers, or even from one job to another, inspectors need to do the same. We need to do away with the whole structure, foundation and all. We need to reset. Sometimes, we get our wires crossed because we don’t realize something we were told on the last job was from Job Specifications and not code, so it doesn’t apply to the current job. This is not just a newbie mistake, I see it often. I also often hear people talking about ‘memorizing code’, and saying things like ‘that’s how it’s always been’, despite the fact that the newest edition just changed all that. We need to reset.

It doesn’t matter if you are a manager, welder, or inspector…WE NEED A ‘RESET’.

Some years ago, while preparing for the ICC tests and the city of Los Angeles test, I quickly noticed that all the practice information sent to me by others was based upon AISC and IBC material that was 20 to 30 years old and obviously far out of date. Of course, I was not surprised when I heard that many people failed the test. How could you pass studying outdated material? The code world went through major changes (AKA: Reset) from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s. Earthquakes, storms, structural failures, and modern research bore out the flaws in earlier practices. And yet we still have people using old copies of AISC, IBC (even the older UBC), and D1.1 to study for exams and perform inspections. We need to reset.

An adult education student working out problems on his calculator with the teacher's help.
Many institutions offer instructor-led and online courses that cover the latest changes and advances in the welding industry.

To insure the public safety and honor the wishes of the customer and engineer, we must practice accuracy and integrity. And to do this, we must discard outdated or erroneous information and look to the latest codes, seminars, and training for the information we need to do our jobs right. In this age of computers, internet, cell phones, and so much more, it’s easy to satisfy the requirements for 9-year recertification by taking online courses that allow you to earn PDHs. Unlike a retake of the CWI Part B exam, these opportunities are so much better in helping each of us understand the intent of the codes we work to. Taking classes through AWS, Steel Structures Technology Center, ICC, NDT Classroom, Hobart, Lincoln, or anywhere else can only be a plus for you and your customers. People like Bob Shaw with SSTC, who serves on committees with AWS, RCSC (Bolting), AISC, and IIW can help you understand the intent of what was written. Take advantage of these resources and RESET your mind to do your job better.

One thing we should NEVER hear in our world is that, ‘We have always done it that way.’ The codes have changed a lot over the years. Sure, since 2000 they have gotten pretty consistent and solid but look at some of the arguments we still have over the newest D1.1:2015.  Some obvious changes that require a RESET.