Close Encounters of the Infrared Kind

IR Talk

Many years ago, I was working with a team of thermographers on a large project. There were four of us working on the project and it was going to take approximately two weeks to complete the survey. I had worked with one of the team members on several occasions. The other two thermographers I was working with I had never met before.

The job was split four ways so we each had an area to cover. Even though we had our own areas of responsibilities, our paths would cross occasionally during the day. On our third day, I ran into one of the gentleman on my team that I had not met before. We decided to take a short break to compare notes. After about ten minutes or so, two of the plant personnel approached us with a question. They had seen us all around the operation with cameras in our hands and were very curious as to what we were doing. Well, before I could get a word out (and to my amazement!) my coworker piped up and told them what we were doing was very high tech and they wouldn’t understand it.

I couldn’t believe what I had heard! The plant workers walked away with a confused and slightly disgusted looks on their faces. I waited until the two men were far enough away and out of ear shot before I explained my opinion of his “you wouldn’t understand” comment. I politely expressed I didn’t think his comment was appropriate. As thermographers, we need to champion the technology. We should take the time and explain how infrared cameras work and what all they can and can’t do. As an instructor and consultant for The Snell Group, I constantly find my students and myself performing tasks with infrared cameras, while in the public eye. I’m always fast to approach when anyone shows the slightest amount of interest in what a student or myself is doing with the camera. I can honestly say every person I’ve taken the time to explain the technology to have been extremely thankful for my time and effort.

This same ideology extends to when I’m doing a plant survey.  When in a plant or facility, I consider myself to be on someone else’s home turf. In turn, I’m the outsider. If any plant personnel approach me with a question about what I’m doing, I will normally give the person the camera, show him or her how to use it, and let them see some images I have taken. I find most of the time this type of open approach is very beneficial for future inspections. It is not uncommon to have plant personnel hunt me down so they can show me an area of concern for them. I can’t tell you how many times an operator has led me to a thermal anomaly I may or may not have found on my own. I don’t think I would get the same help from these people, if I were to respond to their questions by saying “you won’t understand.”

So, you should never consider yourself just a thermographer. A good thermographer will be an educator also!

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