Welder qualification - a forum on practice changes in Australia

Welder qualification forum


The Australian Steel Institute (ASI) hosted a forum in South Australia for fabricators on 11 April 2019. The forum was initiated in response to significant feedback, misunderstanding and concern from our fabricator community as to the direction of welder qualification in Australia, as demonstrated by the actual and planned changes in the relevant Australian Standards.

AS/NZS 1554.1 allows welders to be qualified in accordance with a number of Standards, as per Clause 4.12.2.2:

  • AS/NZS 1554
  • AS 1796
  • AS/NZS 3992
  • AS/NZS 2980
  • AS/NZS ISO 9606-1

It should be clearly understood that AS/NZS 1554.1, which covers welding requirements for structural steel fabricated and erected in accordance with AS/NZS 5131 and designed in accordance with AS 4100 and AS/NZS 5100.6, allows the fabricator to make the choice as to which Standard they will qualify welders to (unless specified otherwise in the contract or client specification).

AS/NZS 2980 was recently revised (2018) and a significant number of industry concerns stem from the changed provisions and reference to AS/NZS ISO 9606-1.

The welding Standards committee (WD-003) have a stated intention to phase out AS/NZS 2980 and move to AS/NZS ISO 9606-1. No official timeframe has been set on that transition.

Forum structure

The format of the Forum was a breakfast meeting hosted by David Ryan of ASI. Approximately 31 fabricators and related stakeholders (welding service providers, certification representatives, ASI personnel etc) attended.

The structure of the forum comprised:

  • Initial welcome, introduction of guest speakers and ASI representatives, and setting of context by David Ryan;
  • A presentation for approximately 45 min by Bruce Cannon, chairman of WD-003 Standards welding committee. The presentation outlined the history and development of Standards related to welder qualification, the current scenario and the planning by the Standards committee for the future direction of welder qualification in Australia; The presentation from Bruce Cannon can be downloaded and viewed here;
  • A presentation (verbal only) by Leno Zanardo of Advanced Steel (representing fabricators) of the assessed fabricator concerns evident prior to the forum;
  • An open question and answer session and discussion exploring the questions, issues, the concerns and potential future actions.

Concerns

Prior to the Forum, ASI garnered from a range of stakeholders their feedback and perceptions as to the current industry issues/concerns/queries on welder qualification and the relevant Standards. This feedback was assembled and rationalised to a set of concerns presented for discussion at the forum. The key concerns, and outcomes of the discussion have been highlighted and are presented below.

What do you need to do?

We recommend that you:

  • Review the presentation by Bruce Cannon - download here;
  • Review the concerns and outcomes from the forum discussion - see below
  • Please take the survey noted below. It is very important that we gather wide ranging feedback from all of our fabricator community.

Next steps

Based on the Adelaide Forum and the results of the survey, ASI intends to prepare an analysis and discussion paper. It is expected that ASI will present the analysis and discussion paper to Standards committee WD-003 to inform and drive the future direction of welder qualification in Australia.

As a related but separate initiative, development of the forum has highlighted the deficiencies in the Standards engagement process, with many fabricators not being aware of changes to Standards or planning for future direction, and finding it difficult to understand how they can become engaged and voice their concerns. ASI intends to engage with Standards to facilitate and drive improvements in Standards process.

Forum outcomes


Tabulated below are the questions/comments presented before and during the Forum, and a summary of the clarifications obtained. In some cases ASI has also provided a comment to stimulate further discussion, based on the sentiment evident from the Forum.

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1. Concern: Welding Standards are becoming increasingly complicated and now require reference to multiple international Standards (ISO 9606.1 in particular)
  Feedback:
  • It is expensive to purchase all these Standards, including AS/NZS 1554, AS/NZS 2980 and now ISO 9606.1;
  • ISO Standards typically refer to a number of other related ISO Standards, which also should/must be purchased. In the case of ISO 9606.1, you need to purchase the relevant test Standards if you plan to test in-house. This also applies to qualification to AS/NZS 1554.1.
  • There is confusion as to just what welder qualification route is most appropriate to follow
  • AS/NZS 1554.2 has only three essential variables to manage in terms of welder qualification (process, position and pipe diameter) compared with 7 under ISO 9606-1.
  • The definitions in ISO 9606-1, including welding processes, consumables, types of arc welding, welding positions are completely different to AS/NZS 1554.1. How will smaller fabricators come to grips with all these changes?
  ASI comment:
  • There is genuine confusion in the marketplace;
  • There is doubt that the changes add value;
  • Increasing complexity does add cost, and not necessarily commensurate benefit.
2. Concern: We have no or limited awareness of the changes taking place to welding Standards and limited ability to influence the direction of Standards
  Feedback:
  • Do not know how to engage properly with Standards process
  • Seems like public comment period is too late to effect change or influence direction
  • Not realistic or fair to expect us to have to purchase international (ISO) Standards just to make public comment
  ASI comment:
  • We agree the Standards process is not as good as it could be
  • We agree the system is set up to fail if Standards expect industry to purchase ISO Standards just to make comment on proposed revisions to our Standards
  • The fabrication community does need to accept some responsibility to proactively inform themselves and be part of the process, not a bystander.
  • We continue to work with Standards to try to develop better approaches to more widespread engagement and awareness of proposed changes in a timely manner
3. Concern: With the latest revisions of the welder qualification Standards there is a significant additional cost burden with requalification and associated process required every 6 months.
  Feedback:
  • Testing is around $400 per test (up front cost), with some advice that this may be more like $1500 per test once all costs such as labour, supervision, planning and materials are bought to account.
  • No recognition of the significant time and cost incurred in coming to grips with a range of overseas Standards that are significantly different to AS/NZS 1554.
  • Now require additional qualification test for fillet welds, whereas previously fillets could be qualified by butt weld. Hence more testing.
  • Total additional costs to get all welders tested to AS/NZS 2980:2018:
  • Fabricator A: $130,000
  • Fabricator B: $10,000
  • Fabricator C: $34,000
  • We believe this is unnecessary cost burden and provides no tangible benefit over the outcomes from qualifying under AS/NZS 1554, as has been happening for years. We have not seen significant adverse structural safety effects under AS/NZS 1554.
  ASI comment:
  • There are several paths to requalification, as noted in Bruce Cannon (BC) presentation
  • Fabricators must understand their options, and it is not clear
  • There are three options for period of validity, each requiring confirmation every 6 months. Refer BC presentation for details
  • The ‘indefinite’ option for requalification is seemingly appealing (no requalification required), but this option requires the welder to be working under a fabricator who has an ISO 3834 system in place that has been ‘verified’. It is unclear what ‘verified’ means and there may be a common misconception that it means ‘certified’, which it does not.
  • It is worth noting that any new or revision of a Standard directly referenced under the NCC should include a ‘Preliminary Impact Assessment’ (PIA) as part of the project proposal process. However, this is not the case for the majority of secondary or lower referenced Standards, such as AS/NZS 1554.1. The PIA has a significant focus on not unnecessarily adding cost as one of several perspectives. However, often at project proposal stage it is difficult to judge what the true costs are or will be, particularly for new procedures that have not been widely tested in the market.
4. Concern: A suggested benefit of the changes to Standards that the welder qualification is ‘portable’ is not practically evident
  Feedback:
  • It is commercially unrealistic to expect fabricators to pay for welder qualification and then have them walk out the door to a competitor, who gains the benefit of the qualification without paying for it.
  ASI Comment
  • The welder population is, in general, quite transient and move from job to job and between fabricators regularly. It is difficult to imagine under these circumstances securing any real value from the claimed portability benefit.
5. Concern:

Adoption of international Standards (such as ISO 9606.1) will not offer the claimed opportunity for local welders to participate in international projects, but rather further open the doors for international fabricators to bring product into Australia and further decimate our industry

  Feedback:
  • This concern expressed by some fabricators during fact finding prior to the forum, and was also expressed at the Forum.
 

ASI Comment

  • This is a common sentiment expressed to us regularly and generally in connection with the Australian Government internationalisation direction.
  • From the perspective of the majority of local fabricators, who are not doing international work, it is difficult to argue against the sentiment.
  • Internationalisation efforts must include proper and rigorous attention to ensuring the community expectation on safety and quality is maintained.
6. Concern: AS/NZS 5131-2016 requires CC3 welders to be qualified to AS 2980. Unlike AS/NZS 1554, the fabricator therefore does not have a choice with which Standard to qualify welders to.
  Feedback:
  • The 2018 revision of AS 2980 has significantly impacted qualification of welders for CC3 work. Was this considered by the Standards welding committee?
  ASI comment:
  • Change to referenced Standards can have significant flow-on effects and must be properly understood and communicated to the relevant affected Standard's committee for review.

 

Survey


It is very important that ASI secure a truly representative picture of fabricator response and concerns regarding the direction of welder qualification in Australia. We therefore strongly suggest that you take the survey that we have prepared, available here. The survey is designed to align with the concerns identified in the Adelaide forum but at the same time elicit other feedback, both positive and negative, on related issues of concern to fabricators and our stakeholder community involved with welder qualification and more generally fabrication of structural steelwork.

Due to heightened interest we have extended the survey by 2 weeks.  We greatly appreciate you completing this survey which provides critical industry feedback on this issue, and would be grateful if you could please download your completed survey on our website no later than 15 July 2019, so that we can collate all responses and have a collective industry view in a meaningful time frame.

COMPLETE THE SURVEY