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FAQ: Consideration of the Qualification Testing of Welders and Welding Procedure Specifications

Before you make any commitment to welder training or qualifications, do remember to consider the many points listed below as welding is both regarded as a special process as it is a complex technology. .

Once you have had the opportunity to digest some the information, please feel free to contact us on the contact details at the end of this FAQ.

1.  Different standards for different requirements: There are 4 main standards used in the UK. BS 4872 - Welder qualifications when welding procedure qualification is not required. This tends to be for easily weldable steels, austenitic stainless steels (Part 1) and aluminium alloys (Part 2) with materials that exhibit no real problems of weldability. (Such materials are unlikely to crack or to suffer any loss of mechanical or suffer any real detriment to their metallurgical properties from welding).

2. Why EN ISO requirements: There is also welder qualification when welding procedure qualification is also likely to be required which was until November 2013, BS EN 287 Part 1 for steels and nickel alloys. This has now been replaced by BS EN ISO 9606 Part 1. (Various other parts also exist for other applications and materials including BS EN ISO 9606 Part 2 for aluminium).

To qualify to the BSEN ISO standard a welding procedure qualification test normally has to be carried out to BS EN ISO 15614 or other parts of this suite of standards. This is to test the requirements of the material, welding process and consumable combination for more critical applications where assurance of mechanical and metallurgical performance is essential.

3. Quality requirements: Testing of the welding procedure qualification test piece includes 100% visual, and 100% surface testing using penetrant or magnetic particle inspection and volumetric NDT such as ultrasonic or radiographic testing. Defect allowance is minimal and can be assessed in BS EN ISO 5817 Level B and for some shape imperfections, in Level C.

4. Testing of the welds: Destructive testing that finds weld defects is carried out in both BS 4872 and BSEN 287. However, for the welding procedure qualification testing to BSEN ISO 15614, this also includes quantitative tests such as tensile tests, Charpy impact testing, hardness testing as well as qualitative testing such as bends, macro and fracture testing as with the welder qualification to assess welding defects. This level of testing therefore demonstrates a much more safety critical approach and obviously sees higher testing costs.

5. Other standards: There is also the ASME IX and AWS D1.1 (and other AWS standards) which are used and preferred in some industries in the UK. The standards are arguably the American equivalents of the items in 2-4 above but they may have some major technical differences.

6. Costing: So to work to these standards there is the costs associated with qualifying welding procedure specifications.

7. Technical implications: There are potential contract issues with working to out of date standards or to a welding procedure specification that is technically flawed. It is therefore common to find some documents are qualified to the older but superseded standards BS EN 288 Part 3 or prior to 1992 - BS 4870 which commonly are not accepted on a technical level.

8. Multiple standard qualifications: You may wish to consider a dual qualification to ASMEIX and EN ISO 15614/EN287 requirements. This costs a little more but will save you money in the longer term but some Bodies will not allow this for reasons unknown.

9. Welding Process selection: Make sure you chose a welding process(es) that is/are suitable for the industry sector. For example, the offshore industry does not use much (if any) MIG/MAG welding, but they use a lot of TIG root runs and MMA fill and cap. Flux core is also used widely in the Shipbuilding and steel frame building industry along with MMA welding for site work. Some industries may use a great deal of submerged arc welding. Choosing the welding process(es) carefully is critical as normally only one qualification certificate is generated from one welding process is all that is permitted.

10. Material Selection: Select a material type and thickness which will give you the best range of qualification. For example, completing a test in S235 structural steel grade only approves this grade of steel. Complete a test in S460ML fine grained thermo mechanical steel will qualify for most structural ferritic steels with less strength and notch toughness requirements in a given thickness range that is dependent on the original test piece thickness.

11. Grouping systems: Stainless steel and aluminium also have a separate material grouping system and thickness range that is not qualified by welding ferritic steel.

12. Joint design and details: Consider the types of joint to be welded very carefully. Butt welds welded from one side often approve butt welds from both sides and until recently, fillet welds. This means both butt welds and fillet welds normally require qualification as a minimum.

13. Welding positions encountered in production: The welding position is also important. Positional welding qualifies gravity assisted welding but not the converse for welder qualifications. Also remember that not all welders are capable of welding in more stringent and difficult positions such as the vertical and overhead positions.

14. Range of application: If the welder welds pipe, pipe forms (Including square/rectangular hollow sections) approves plate but not the converse. (At least this is true in some positional welding examples).

15. The level of complexity: If qualification testing is new to the company or the welder(s), perhaps think about looking initially at BS 4872 requirements first as this is regarded as “Class 2” and will get the welder over the pain and stress of completing a weld TEST to the higher standard required of the “Class 1”. The acceptance levels for weld defects are lower too in BS4872 with only 75% penetration required ina butt weld from one side where the EN ISO and ASME require full root penetration on single sided butt welds.

16. UKAS? Consider the use of a Notified Body (Accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service) – Such organisation including Minton Treharne and Davies, Lloyds Register, TUV, Royal Sun Alliance and Code –A-Weld etc.

17. Witnessing the tests: Anyone can claim the status of an “Examining Body” but if you do not use a Recognised Third party Organisation or Notified Body to witness the welding and subsequent tests you may find the qualification is treated null and void in some specific contract terms or by a client and then extra costs are then involved. We are able to work with such organisations once all the technical details have been collected and collated and the welders are trained!

18. Documentation requirements: Make sure the company are provided with all of the documentation which could include: The Welding Procedure Specification(s), Welding Procedure Qualification Record(s), the Welder Qualification Test Certificate(s). In addition a pack of additional documents are also commonly required such as
Material Certification, Consumable Certification, NDT reports, DT reports, etc. Copies of the NDT/DT qualifications of the personnel involved in the testing is also required for many industries or contracts.

19. Maintaining qualifications: Welding Procedures qualifications are effectively valid for life* but think about the implications of completing welder tests (“Codings”) as they is only valid for 6 months. To ensure their continued validity each certificate has to be signed off by a responsible person (The employer) every six months. If the welder(s) qualify and are not welding with that welding process-material –consumable combination within a 6 month period it is technically, null and void.

20. Facts, facts and more facts: Make sure that all the production details are known as missing a material type or application can lead to extensive additional time and costs on additional qualifications in the future.

21. The correct test: Do remember to recognise that a welding test is like a driving test. How many experienced drivers would pass their driving test after so long? Therefore do not aim to high. Many aim for a “6G pipe weld” (ASME) or an HLO45 (BS EN ISO) which is a test pipe axis is in the fixed 45º. How many welds are actually found in this position in the field? The consequence is that qualified welders to this position cannot complete to the required standard pipe welds axis in the horizontal position or vertical position, especially if the training course only concentrates on fixed 45º welds.

22. Training and ability: Experience cannot be taught and while many welders have a perception that it is within their capability often they fail the test standards requirements as they do not fully understand the requirements of the standard (Repeatedly in many cases) so don’t waste effort on a test(s) that is not possible at that time.

23. Success in the testing: There is a “window of opportunity” with welding qualifications. Test too early and the welder may fail the test. Spend too much time delaying the test and the welder may miss their peak and may fail the test also.

24. Other requirements: There may also be further requirements for the training of welders in visual inspection to enhance their skills and knowledge as they are the first line of inspection especially as all codes insist on 100% visual inspection of each weld produced in production.

25. Production Quality Control after qualification: There may also be a requirement to have qualified welding inspection personnel on the job.
We are also approved to run this type of training and exams to PCN welding inspector requirements.

26. CE Marking of Steel and aluminium welded products: If your company is involved in steel structures to BS EN 1090, there may also be additional requirements for welding procedure and welder qualification testing.
27. Responsible Welding Coordinator Competence: the training of welding coordination personnel to ISO 3834 requirements is recommended in EN 1090. Weld-Class-Solutions Ltd is the only independent Approved Training Body of the International Institute of Welding’s “International Welding Specialist” training scheme in the UK. We also provide short courses for the steel frame industry sector for RWC’s and other personnel who have a welding responsibility.
28. Welding Engineering Support: Welding is a complex process and with nearly 40 years in the field, Weld-Class-Solutions Ltd have built up an extensive experience and qualification in the field which can be utilised to help companies and individuals alike.

29. Where do we go from here: If you are uncertain in any of the above or you have further questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to give me a call as it is important to us that you achieve the correct information before you potentially start this very time consuming and costly journey.

30. Liability: Our last point is, please note we accept no liability for any information provided above as we do not know the specific details of your request, needs, contract or technical status, but we will be pleased to provide you with our unbiased advice should you wish to get in contact.

Do you wish to see what Weld-Class-Solutions can do for your business?

Contact us today on 01223 839682/Mobile +44 (0) 7790 163097

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