When we established Phoenix National Laboratories (PNL) in 1994 there were limited resources or need for industrial metal testing and inspection services, as Arizona was known for the five C’s – Cotton, Cattle, Climate, Citrus, and Copper, with copper mines being the primary industrial driver. While commercial development and construction drove most of the growth back then, Phoenix was preparing for major explosions in the industrial and manufacturing industries by establishing business incentives and opportunities. Because of this, Phoenix has attracted many companies from across the country and around the world over the last 30 years. As the fifth largest city in the United States, the Phoenix region now supports large scale semi-conductor manufacturing, expanded mining operations, medical device, military defense, and other manufacturing industries all requiring power, water distribution, and other infrastructure support systems. This makes Phoenix an incredibly diverse and unique industrial region with the need for an independent testing and inspection laboratory having expertise in welding and metal fabrications capable of navigating across multiple industrial, commercial, and municipal environments.
At PNL we believe in supporting the needs of our industrial community locally, and have assembled a team of highly skilled, multi-disciplined, industrial testing and inspection experts ready to provide Quality Services When You Need It, right here in Arizona. We possess knowledge and experience with a multitude of codes and standards related to metal fabrications. Our expertise is knowing which codes to apply and how to apply them to assure your project gets completed according to plans and specifications, and within time and cost budgets.
We recognize there are many choices in providers of NDT and Inspection services including Geotechnical and Structural Engineering firms, small independent testing companies, and even individual inspection contractors. However, most of these offerings are limited in scope and ability. So yes, we provide Nondestructive Testing Services (NDT), but to a much higher degree, and from a different standpoint than most others. How are we different? First, we consider visual examination and inspections (VT) as an NDT method that must be conducted and accepted prior to other NDT methods, such as Ultrasonic or Radiographic examinations. It is surprising how often we arrive at a project or receive an item for NDT that does not meet the VT requirements. We also provide a full slate of NDT methods and techniques that are rare among our competitors. Second, our technicians are well trained and experienced in multiple NDT methods and related inspections. Additionally, our technicians and inspectors receive training in welding, metal properties, codes, and standards. Before our technicians become certified weld inspectors (CWI’s) or ICC Inspectors, they typically will have been certified in multiple NDT techniques including both volumetric and surface methods. Third, our services are managed by knowledgeable experienced professionals in their respective areas who have provided services to our clients and can step in when needed. All services begin with a detailed service agreement reviewed and approved by these project managers who will also review and approve reports and invoices to assure services were performed in accordance with our written agreement. And fourth, PNL employs registered professional engineers on staff with experience and training specific to our NDT services including Mechanical, Civil/Structural, and Metallurgical Engineering. These engineers provide that additional layer of expertise and problem-solving abilities that many of our competitors lack. Finally, PNL is an ISO 17015:2017 accredited 3rd party laboratory. Our listed scope of services includes Nondestructive Testing, QA and Special Inspection Services, Physical/Mechanical testing for metal, plastic, and rubber properties, Welding Technology qualification services, and Metallurgical services including failure analysis.
We welcome all inquiries from our current clients and all prospective clients who are seeking quality testing and inspections services. We will likely be able to solve your quality requests with our extensive catalogue of testing services.
PNL utilizes state of the art technology to keep up with inspection demand as much as possible. This quarter’s technology spotlight involves the use of laser technology to help with inspection.
The laser would not have been possible without an understanding that light is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Max Planck, German theoretical physicist and originator of quantum theory received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1918 for his discovery of elementary energy quanta (the smallest possible unit of energy). His theory marked a turning point in physics and inspired up-and-coming physicists such as Albert Einstein. In 1905, Einstein released his paper on the photoelectric effect, which proposed that light also delivers its energy in chunks, in this case discrete quantum particles now called photons. In 1917, Einstein proposed the process that makes lasers possible, called stimulated emission. He theorized that, besides absorbing and emitting light spontaneously, electrons could be stimulated to emit light of a particular wavelength. This is where the name LASER comes from – Light Amplified Stimulated Emissions of Radiation.
3D scan of building envelope to aid with platform additions
Laser scanning is the controlled deflection of laser beams, visible or invisible. Scanned laser beams are used in some 3-D printers, in rapid prototyping, in machines for material processing applications specific to mapping. PNL utilizes LASER beams in several ways. The most basic test is for making linear measurements. LASER beams have great accuracy over a long range, as accurate as 0.001” over a 12’ length. Another application is for making computed radiographs using phosphor image plates. A LASER scans the phosphor plate after being exposed to radiation causing variation in phosphor emittance which can then be captured to produce a radiograph. A third way we use LASER beams is for mapping structures using a three-dimensional beam. This is accomplished using a 3D Laser Scanner mounted on a transom. The scans can be processed to create images and drawings.
PNL utilizes Trimble laser scanning software for a multitude of scopes for construction engineering and architectural clients, including BIM (Building Information Modeling), virtual design construction (VDC), pre-construction as-builts, quality control, plant and industrial measurement and deformation monitoring.
Projects such as tenant improvement, retention areas, plant and industrial measurement, and construction as-builts all benefit from 3D LASER Scans. Another application is for in-service tank inspections as the LASER can measure roundness, verticality, floor settlement as well as perform volume calibrations.
3D laser scanner head
3D Laser Scanning Applications
The International Building Code (IBC) requires that the owner or owner’s authorized agent, other than the contractor, shall employ one or more approved agencies to provide special inspections and tests in accordance with the requirements of the code. These inspections are in addition to those conducted by the building officials and the structural observations that may be required of the Design Engineer. The IBC defines approved agencies as those which can demonstrate the following to the building official:
Any agency who can demonstrate these three requirements to the building official can act as an approved agency. The mechanisms to demonstrate these requirements include verification of third-party laboratory accreditations such as ISO 17025:2017 or AASHTO CCRL participation, review of quality program manuals, and review of personnel certifications.
The IBC also permits the Engineer of Record to act as an approved agency. In addition, the owner may hire an Engineer who is not the Engineer of Record to take responsible charge of special inspections. Such an Engineer is termed the Registered Design Professional in Responsible Charge who would also act as an approved agency. For either case, the building official should verify that the Design Engineer or the Engineer in Responsible Charge meet the requirements to act as an approved agency. Being a Design Engineer by itself does not necessarily meet those requirements, as most Design Engineers do not regularly maintain and calibrate equipment and often do not employ third party certified personnel such as ICC special inspectors, or AWS Certified Welding Inspectors. In addition, if the project is of a design-build nature, the Design Engineer may be employed by or employ the contractor, which would invalidate the Independence requirement.
The Design Engineer’s primary role is to evaluate design solutions against industry standards and regulations and to prepare construction documents based on those evaluations. While it is the Design Engineer (Engineer of Record) who typically prepares the statement of special inspections, it may not always be the best choice to act as the approved agency responsible for special inspections, particularly if the project is large and/or complicated. For these cases, it may be better to defer special inspections and tests to those whose specialty is testing and inspection and who are accredited as third-party independent laboratories, and even use multiple agencies to accomplish the required inspections. For example, a Geotechnical laboratory, whose expertise is soils and foundations, would be the best choice to perform soils and concrete inspections while a Nondestructive Testing lab, with expertise in welding, would be the best choice to handle the structural steel and welding tests and inspections. This makes sense because the contractors who perform the construction are also specialized. The General Contractor typically hires an excavating contractor who will prepare the soils, a concrete contractor who will pour and set the concrete, separate masonry and asphalt contractors, along with multiple steel contractors who will fabricate and erect different portions of the steel. Each approved agency typically has knowledge and prior relationships with the contractors performing the work they are responsible for.
Regardless, the IBC details the responsibilities and the general process for completing special inspections as follows: It is the Owner’s responsibility to employ one or more approved agencies to provide special inspections and tests during construction. Each approved agency will provide a Design Professional in Responsible Charge (DPRC) who will then become familiar with the plans, specifications, and their portion of inspection requirements. The DPRC will then assume responsibility for special inspections by signing and stamping a certificate of Special Inspections stating as such. The DPRC may or may not be the Design Engineer of Record. The building official will then review and approve the qualifications of each approved agency to assure they meet the requirements outlined in the IBC.
During construction, each approved agency will direct and oversee the special inspections in their charge to assure all tests and inspections are being properly conducted and work is in conformance with the plans, specifications, and code requirements. They will prepare detailed records of tests and inspections in accordance with code requirements. If any work is found to be non-conforming, the approved agency will notify the contractor for correction. If not corrected, the building official and the DPRC are to be notified. At the completion of work the DPRC signs and stamps the Special Inspection Certificate indicating that work was found to be in conformance with the plans and specifications.
In conclusion, most construction projects are complicated structures which require a multitude of experienced engineers, contractors, and inspectors to assure compliance with design and construction codes and standards. The IBC recognizes this and provides guidance that details the separation of duties and responsibilities to assure each area of design and construction receives the expertise warranted to produce a safe and successful structure. Having multiple approved agencies separate from the Design Engineer provides fully independent checks and balances against the design and construction requirements and assures a higher level of competence.
PNL has a large 60-person training room to accommodate large groups for a multitude of training needs including safety. We intend to arrange opportunities to host MSHA & OSHA certification training to the public. PNL retains a certified MSHA trainer (Mine Safety and Health Administration) and certified OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Construction trainer.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) works to prevent death, illness, and injury from mining and promote safe and healthy workplaces for U.S. miners. It was established in 1966 with the passage of the federal metal and nonmetallic mine safety act. The agency develops and enforces safety and health rules for all U.S. mines regardless of size, number of employees, commodity mined, or method of extraction. MSHA also provides technical, educational, and other types of assistance to mine operators.
Safety and health in America’s mining industry made significant strides during the 20th century and over the last several decades. In 1978, the first year MSHA operated under the Mine Act of 1977, 242 miners died in mining accidents. In 2022, this number fell to 29 fatalities.
MSHA continues to work to reduce injuries, illnesses, and death through strong enforcement as well as active outreach, education, training, and technical support to the mining industry.
Shared topics which are addressed in both OSHA and MSHA training are confined space entry, electrical safety, fall protection, fire prevention and control, first aid, forklifts, aerial devices, hand and power tools, HAZCOM, lockout tagout and noise exposure. There are additional enhancements for MSHA on certain topics when working in a mine.
With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
The OSHA Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority.
OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. Before OSHA can issue a standard, it must go through a very extensive and lengthy process that includes substantial public engagement, notice and comment.
MSHA's Alliance program enables organizations committed to mine safety and health to collaborate with MSHA to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the workplace. MSHA and its allies work together to reach out to, educate, and lead the nation's mine operators and miners in improving and advancing mine safety and health. Alliances are formed by MSHA senior headquarters staff after initial discussions with an organization interested in collaborating with MSHA. MSHA's Alliance program is national in scope.
If you are interested in safety training for your employees, please contact our office to check current training schedules or to discuss custom group options.
PNL's Training Center
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