Dave Cooper revels in demanding role of Engineering Consultant
For SOE member and engineering consultant at LECS Dave Cooper, who has advised on over 5,000 installations, given expert witness reports on 3,500 legal cases and worked across more than 20 industry sectors, one requirement of his role has remained constant: the ability to work under pressure.
“There is always pressure,” said Dave. “Having worked for many years as engineer surveyor and then having investigated 40 fatalities, you must always err to caution. If you know there’s a real possibility of danger or risk, you can’t shy away from it, you’ve got to be brave and make that decision. But you’ve also got to be flexible and malleable enough to say to a client, ‘This is the way forward’, and help them with a solution.”
Over the course of his career there are a few jobs that have stood out; ‘Sexy projects’, as Dave describes them.
One such project was the Emirates Air Line cable car. From Dave’s perspective, being employed as the consultant to manage this project, it was another great opportunity to work in an unfamiliar yet related field.
Working across sectors, in an industry that has quickly adopted new technology to its moving platforms, makes it an exciting challenge, but the principles of inspection – and the core objective of maintaining safety and standards – should not be compromised, said Dave.
“It comes down to the definition of competence; the ability to identify a defect. And the knowledge to be able to ascertain the significance of that defect, and what the outcome could be. It’s a very fine balance. If it’s a very serious defect it means that everyone’s not coming out for breakfast in the morning, because you’re recommending that the lift should be taken out of service. So, you’ve got to be able to make a sound judgement.” said Dave.
Entering the industry in the 1980s through an apprenticeship with British Railways Limited, and later joining British Engine (then part of the Royal Insurance Group) as an Engineer Surveyor and trainer, Dave started his consultancy in 1993 and has travelled the world in his present role.
“I love to travel. Some of the travel can be quite daunting, but I’m always recruited to work on lifts, escalators or cable cars, so that’s my speciality. That’s all I’ve done wherever I’ve gone in the world; my job has taken me to the Middle East, Armenia, Gibraltar, Australia, and Mauritius. It’s generally only a couple of months at a time, and apart from that it’s been short stays – fly in, deal with the problem and leave,” said Dave.
“I enjoy passing on information. I am a university lecturer; I love sharing what I know by giving presentations,” said Dave. “I travel a lot to do it and I enjoy it very much. I couldn’t be in a job that was just a job; waking up every morning and not wanting to go to work is not something I could face.”
Two major changes in the law – the first in 1992 with the lift and equipment record and tests examination regulations, then LOLER six years later – meant that the role of the engineer surveyor has fundamentally changed. From then on, engineer surveyors had to consider the legal implications of every decision they took.
“In the old days, a lift was a lift was a lift; they were all more or less the same. They didn’t have reset and safety features that they have now, and now all the manufacturers reset profiles are all different. So, you must know the products – it’s a more onerous role,” said Dave.
By joining SOE, attending lectures arranged by the BES professional sector, and registering with the Engineering Council at CEng and Eur Ing, Dave has become a leading technical expert in the industry.
“What you need is effort and aptitude. I look back, and if I hadn’t joined professional institutions such as the SOE and BES, made the effort to attend meetings and the rest of it, then I wouldn’t have met the people to pull me through.” concluded Dave.