Inspection Operator Selection Key to CCTV Program Success

June 1, 2009
In recent years, pipeline assessment programs have gained top priority as agencies attempt to determine the rehabilitation needs for their aging sanitary sewer systems.

By Jim Aanderud

In recent years, pipeline assessment programs have gained top priority as agencies attempt to determine the rehabilitation needs for their aging sanitary sewer systems. At the forefront of the assessment process is the CCTV pipeline inspection program.

One of the greatest challenges that agencies face today is finding the right personnel to operate and manage their CCTV inspection program. Perhaps the most difficult position to fill is that of an inspection operator.

The CCTV Pipeline Inspection Operator position requires a unique type of individual with a wide set of skills. This position is commonly underestimated, and candidates are often selected who lack the proper skills to succeed.

A CCTV pipeline inspection is conducted by Rob Hueners.
Click here to enlarge image

Without a qualified CCTV inspection operator, a successful CCTV inspection program is not possible. Therefore, a CCTV inspection prospect should be thoroughly screened before any time and resources are committed to training.

Before any candidates are considered for the CCTV Inspection Operator position, they must exhibit some aptitude in the areas listed below. Without these skills, it will be difficult for them to absorb and learn everything that is needed to succeed as a CCTV Inspection Operator.

  1. A CCTV Inspection Operator must be ORGANIZED: Hours and even days can be lost to disorganized CCTV inspection operator. Misplaced documents, videos and any other key information can result in a loss of revenue and productive time. Each month, hundreds of video and data files area generated. If a proper system is not in place to keep these files organized, devastating losses can occur.

  2. The CCTV Inspection Operator must be a Problem Solver: When working around CCTV inspection equipment, it is not IF the equipment will break down, it is more a matter of WHEN the equipment will break down. The CCTV inspection operator must have the ability and desire to find and fix most problems. Ninety percent of the problems encountered in the field can be fixed. A productive day can be very easily lost if the CCTV operator does not have the sense of urgency to find the problems and fix them.

  3. The CCTV Inspection Operator must have a Mechanical Aptitude: Most of the problems encountered in the life of a CCTV inspection operator are mechanical. A solid mechanical ability will go a long way in keeping the equipment running. The need to trouble shoot and fix problems is a daily occurrence for which a CCTV inspection operator needs to be prepared for. A basic understanding of ohms and voltage will also be helpful when diagnosing problems.

  4. The CCTV Inspection Operator must have strong Computer Skills: The need for strong computer skills has changed considerably over recent years. The computer has become just as indispensable to the CCTV inspection operator as the camera and the crawler. Today, the complete inspection process runs through the computer. The inspection video is recorded digitally onto the hard drive and is later transferred to DVD.

    In order to perform an inspection process properly, a knowledge of the Windows Operating System is essential. The inspection operator must know how to create, copy, move, export and archive files within the computer. Without this knowledge, a CCTV operator will be unable to perform the inspection process adequately and data and video files could be lost.

  5. The CCTV Inspection Operator must be Motivated: A motivated CCTV operator is the key to a successful inspection program. This person must have the desire to meet and exceed all established goals. As the leader in the field, the crew-members will follow the CCTV inspection operator in achieving high standards.

    Without a motivated leader, a CCTV program will not meet its goals and will eventually flounder.

  6. The CCTV Inspection Operator must be a Leader: The CCTV inspection operator position carries with it a leadership role. It is the operator who understands the big picture and knows what needs to be accomplished. Therefore, it is the operator who must direct the actions in the field in order to meet established goals. Ultimately, it is the CCTV operator who is responsible for the success or failure in the field. By leading through example, the team will follow and ultimately ensure that the CCTV inspection program is successful.

The CCTV inspection operator position is a wonderful job with a high degree of job satisfaction. Every effort should be made to ensure that the proper person is placed in this position. With the wrong individual, an entire agency will become disillusioned with the CCTV program. When footage goals are falling short, when costly breakdowns are occurring continually, and when the ambitious goals that once justified the purchase of the equipment are scrapped, it may be time to look at the cause of the problem.

CCTV inspection operator Rob Hueners supervises the removal of a camera from a sanitary sewer.
Click here to enlarge image

A CCTV inspection operator may have every excuse in the world as to why failure is prevalent, but remember that failure is not the norm. In fact, there are many exemplary programs across the country. And they all have one thing in common. They selected a qualified individual as their CCTV inspection operator. Remember this: The right person will love this job and that will be the beginning of a successful CCTV inspection program.


Success as a manager will come by understanding the areas of importance in a CCTV pipeline inspection program. Ultimately, the measurement of success is in the quantity of pipeline inspected and in the quality of the product. These two areas can be better achieved by addressing the following items.

  1. Goals: Setting goals is a critical step in ensuring that an inspection program is successful. Realistic expectations should be established in regard to the quantity of feet inspected. Goals should be defined through footage production on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
    Footage goals that are set must be realistic. It would not be prudent to set up a video inspection team for failure. However, the operator must be held accountable to the production rates agreed upon.

    It is recommended that all of the team involved in the CCTV program meet on a regular basis to review the goals and adjusted them in either direction if necessary.
  2. Communication: Without proper communication, it is very difficult for a CCTV operator to function properly. The manager must ensure that the operator is completely familiar with the project, the area, the maps and the reporting system. The operator must be included in all planning meetings that relate to the inspection project. An informed operator will be able to function more efficiently in the field.
  3. Quality: Meeting footage goals is pointless if the quality of the video and data collected are unusable. Every effort should be taken to ensure that the information collected is accurate, thorough and of the highest quality. If the department tasked with evaluating the data is unable to make conclusive decisions based on the data collected, the CCTV inspection program will fail.

    In order to ensure the highest quality, there are some very important steps that a CCTV operator must take. The assumption that all data was entered correctly should never be taken for granted. It is important that quality control be part of the CCTV operator’s routine. After each inspection run, all of the data must be checked to ensure accuracy and thoroughness. The video recording should be replayed to ensure that it recorded properly from beginning to end, that audio is present throughout and that the lighting and focus are acceptable. Doing this immediately after an inspection ensures that the current information is fresh on the operator’s mind, and that the worst case scenario will be that the inspection run will need to be repeated. Re-inspecting then will be much less expensive than having to come back to that location later.

    A secondary quality control check should be conducted by the manager to ensure that the end product is acceptable. By reviewing the video inspections first hand, the manager will be able to guide the operators more effectively by understanding their strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Care of the equipment: A manager should remind the crews on a daily basis of the importance of caring for the vehicle and equipment. It is not always practical, but a single operator should be assigned to each vehicle. This eliminates finger pointing and ensures that the operator is completely responsible for that vehicle. If the CCTV operator meets most of the criteria above, a “Pride of Ownership” will develop where the operator will feel like that vehicle belongs to him or her. This is the best way to ensure that proper care and maintenance is taking place.

    A proper preventative maintenance program should be established to completely go through the equipment on a regular basis. The truth of this business is that the equipment will break down periodically. A good preventative maintenance program will minimize those occurrences.
CCTV inspection operators Yan Theraube, Chris Grothe and Jason Bartley pose next to their CCTV inspection vehicles.
Click here to enlarge image

Selecting the right inspection operator and management team will ensure success for any pipeline inspection program. Having clearly defined goals and proper oversight will ensure that CCTV pipeline inspection program achieves its intended purpose.WW

About the Author:
Jim Aanderud has build his career from the bottom up, beginning as a CCTV pipeline inspection operator in 1992. He joined Innerline Engineering in 1999 as an operations manager before purchasing the company in 2006. Aanderud is a Certified NASSCO/PACP Trainer and the current secretary and past chairman of the California Water Environment Association, Southern Sections Collections Systems Committee. He has numerous published articles on CCTV inspection topics and speaks regularly on a local and national level. Aanderud may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]

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