James joined IACS Ltd in February 2024 as a Senior Pipeline Inspector; before this he spent more than 16 years as a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector and was part of IACS’ network of self-employed contractors.

Meet James, he’s an experienced Pipeline Inspector.

James’ career as a Pipeline Inspector started in 2007 when he embarked on his training through IACS Ltd, during this time he was guided through his qualification by company founder, John Hewitt.

We caught up with James to find out more about the role of a Pipeline Inspector and his journey to become multi-disciplined and a senior inspector. But before we detail the ins and outs of these diverse roles, he tells us more about how he got started.

Pipeline Inspector – kickstarting a career

“I started my training as a Pipeline Inspector with my eyes wide open. I knew about the role and understood the industry well – simply because I started out as a welder’s operative for my dad, who was a welder for Murphy and worked on several large diameter cross country pipelines. In fact, my dad is still welding and he’s nearly 80!!

“Looking back, I had two options, become a Welder or a Pipeline Inspector. Both roles offered a good living and lifestyle, but in the end, becoming an Inspector was what really appealed to me. It was technical, it meant I could gain qualifications and ultimately start a career.”

At 26, James started his training with IACS, and the Pipeline Training Company and gained his BGAS Welding inspector qualification in his first year. In the second, he qualified as a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector, having achieved his Ultrasonic, Coating and Magnetic Particle inspection qualifications.

James started out self-employed, working predominantly on Above Ground Installations (AGI) working on cross-country pipelines that carried elements including oil, gas and water. His role has seen him work two miles down the road and all the way to an iron ore mine site in western Australia!

Why did you choose to become a self-employed contractor initially?

This is a common route for Pipeline Inspectors. During my time as a contractor I enjoyed the freedom of not being tied down to one company, role or location. Saying that I started my career thanks to IACS and have spent many years contracting for them – they are a family businesses and you feel part of that dynamic – I like that!

Why is it good to become a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector?

You can support and monitor more angles of a pipeline, which is good for smaller projects where you can offer a full service – Mechanical, NDT and collate project data books.

How did you become a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector?

Once I obtained all of my tickets and also became BGAS qualified I was straight to work, as the BGAS qualification gives you a good foothold on sites and a wider selection of jobs.

What was your role as a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector?

I was hired as an independent Inspector by the Networks to ensure that contractors were building the pipelines to their exact, stringent specifications.

I operated across high-integrity networks, carrying up to 90 bars in specific areas. Meeting the specification was critical, as there were dangerous consequences if things weren’t right. I made sure that the stringent specs were being met.

What characteristics do you believe are important to have as a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector?

  • Willingness to learn
  • A professional approach
  • Rapport with the client
  • Responsible
  • Thick skin

Why do you say that a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector needs ‘thick skin’?

As an inspector, you assess the work of highly experienced people. You know that they know what they are doing, and they will tell you it’s right and challenge you about why you are questioning their work. However, making sure that the specification has been met is crucial.

If work does not meet the specification you have to push back, keep your cool but stick to the principles of the role that you are employed to do. It’s a role that certainly builds character.

What is the difference between a Multi-Disciplined Pipeline Inspector and a Senior Pipeline Inspector?

As a Senior Pipeline Inspector, every aspect of the project is covered, managed and signed for by you!

It’s a managerial role that is focused on linking all project data to demonstrate that a contractor has delivered to specification. It’s certainly a role that requires detailed reporting.

How do you become a Senior Pipeline Inspector?

The journey to a Senior Pipeline Inspector comes from learning and experience.

You learn from project to project. Every single project has taught me something new.

What’s involved in the role of a Senior Pipeline Inspector?

Project management, liaising with client and contractor teams

Oversee a group of Inspectors.

Collate and assess information.

Devise the job packs to support the network’s specification.

What do you believe are the strongest attributes of a Senior Pipeline Inspector?

Confidence, people management and experience.

What do you enjoy the most about the role of a Senior Pipeline Inspector?

It’s very technical and that’s what I love!

I also enjoy the responsibility that comes with the role and managing the integrity of a network. As inspectors our signatures are a guarantee.

While I love being at home with family, I also enjoy the travel and the super people that I get to meet along the way.

Can you talk us through your day?

Through my current role with IACS, I work on an AGI for Southern Gas.

Southern Gas is rebuilding its network by fabricating and replacing the pipework.

I am focused on health, safety and quality.

I create the method statements that detail, step-by-step, how the work will be carried out safely. Then it’s checking the weld procedures and the quality of the welds.

Ultimately, it’s about making sure that the pipework and pipelines are built to specification.

Every part of the process is monitored and documented and is consistent throughout the entire process.

Why would you recommend a career as a Pipeline Inspector?

There are so many benefits! It’s a wonderful opportunity to travel, to meet great people and earn a good living.

There are lots of opportunities as an Inspector. It’s diverse, which means that you can make the role what you want it to be.

What has being a Pipeline Inspector meant to you?

As a Pipeline Inspector, I have built my character. I left a little village and had the opportunity to travel the world.

Do you have a favourite moment as a Pipeline Inspector?

Australia, without a doubt. I was anxious and excited all at the same time, but I survived, achieved a great deal and had an amazing time.

What would you say to a person considering a career as a Pipeline Inspector?

It’s a wonderful opportunity – but you need to take it incredibly seriously.