Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maintaining Welder Qualification

Jeff P. a Welding & Robotic Engineering Mgr. MN asks...

"A Welder is no longer welding but wants to maintain his qualifications “period of effectiveness”. We allow them to weld 4 hours in production to maintain that qualification. Of course they could always retest, yet 4 hours seems like a short time to stay “in the groove”. What say you?"

As with any skill, ones ability to perform welding will very person to person. Most Welders can pick up a stinger after a 25-week layoff and start in right where they left off. Others need time to get back “in the groove”.
As a good friend, Jeff knows me as a “literalist” when it comes to code speak. His question made me do a little digging, of which I enjoy and from which I always learn. I reviewed several AWS, ASME and API documents and found one commonality. All required requalification testing when there is reason to question the Welders ability. Beyond that, they varied.
API-1104 makes no mention of a 6-month time frame. ASME Sec IX and AWS D1.1, D1.3, D1.5 and D14.3 all have similar statements; “The Welders qualification shall remain in effect indefinitely unless the Welder has not engaged in the process for a period exceeding 6 months.” None of the codes/standards I reviewed mentioned a “hands-on” minimum number of hours to maintain qualification, nor did their commentaries suggest one.
Imagine in a production environment such as Jeff's, a Welder with 2 years experience decides to mix it up a little and takes a job in the Paint Department. After 6-months can they still be considered a Welder? Possibly. How about after the next 6-months? Then the next? Four years after taking that Painter position this Welder has accumulated only 32 hours of welding experience, 4 hours at a time. Now I’m beginning to develop a reason to question his/her ability.
As welding decision makers we need to pass judgments’ based on code requirements and code intent. I’ve always fell back on, “Is there reason to question the Welders ability?” If there is not, then allow him/her to practice their craft. If there is, re-test them and evaluate their ability to make sound welds.