The rationale behind the introduction of ISO 9606-1 Qualification testing of welders – Fusion welding – Part 1: Steels

There appears to be a lack of understanding within the fabrication industry about the rationale for introducing ISO 9606 Qualification testing of welders – Fusion welding into Australia and, more broadly, the need for ISO Standards.

As such, I thought I would take this opportunity to explain it.

I would like to begin with a brief overview of AS/NZS 1554 Structural steel welding Part 1: Welding of steels structures. An excellent standard, AS/NZS 1554.1 states that a welder must be qualified (by welding a coupon in accordance with the relevant acceptance criteria as outlined in the Standard). For shutdown work in particular where welders move from site to site, this can impose a significant cost impost (especially in time delays) due to the need to requalify every time they commence work on a new site.

While this is not so much of issue for workshop-based fabricators where they have ready access to their welder’s qualification records, it is a major problem for organisations within the resources, power, defence, and oil and gas industries who employ teams of specialist welders to undertake program-specific on-site maintenance work, usually where there may be minimal records available of either the welder’s qualifications, or maintenance of qualifications.

In this situation, every welder contracted to undertake program- specific maintenance work must complete a welding coupon. Each welding coupon costs between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on the complexity of the weld procedure to which the welder is being qualified. Unfortunately, the failure rate of welders attempting these coupons can be as high as 80 per cent. Therefore, to successfully qualify 10 welders, an organisation may need to test as many as 50 welders, at a total cost of as much as $250,000.

While this type of cost is an unacceptable burden on many industries, I want to emphasise that this is not a criticism of AS/NZS 1554.1.

To help alleviate this financial burden, Weld Australia looked internationally for an appropriate Standard that would provide a benchmark for welder competency in Australia. We had two options: ISO 9606-1 or AS/NZS 2980 Qualification of welders for Fusion welding of steels.

At the time of consideration, AS/ NZS 2980 was known to be based on an old version of ISO 9606-1. In consultation with our members – particularly major asset managers in the resources, power, defence, and oil and gas industries – we settled on current edition of ISO 9606-1 for several reasons.

Why Weld Australia opted for ISO 9606-1
ISO 9606-1 is the only Standard in the world that is accepted in both Europe and America, and is the minimum requirement for working on rolling stock, defence, infrastructure and pressure equipment projects. In fact, ISO 9606-1 is required under several international Standards, including EN 15085 Railway applications – Welding of railway vehicles and components, and DIN 2303 Welding and allied processes – Quality requirements for production and maintenance companies for military products.

ISO 9606-1 utilises a simple test that assesses welding competency according to a specific weld procedure, based on a practical acceptance criteria. It can be used to test the competency of a welder to complete a variety of weld procedures, from a basic butt weld up to the most complex pipe joints, utilising various positions, processes and materials.

Under ISO 9606-1, welder competency testing is focused on the three key elements required of a welder, including the ability to:

  1. Set up a welding machine
  2. Read a welding procedure
  3. Weld a coupon in accordance with the relevant acceptance criteria

Welder qualifications are valid for two or three years, and are transportable across worksites and employers, avoiding the need to requalify welders where there
is evidence of maintenance of qualification. In addition, a six- monthly confirmation process is used to verify welder qualifications to ensure maintenance of welder skills, without the need for additional testing. The confirmation process is similar to that required for welders qualified to other standards including AS/NZS 1554.1.

ISO 9606-1 does not replace either AS/NZS 1554 or AS/NZS 1796 Certification of welders and welding supervisors. Rather, ISO 9606-1 is complementary to these Standards, working well alongside both.

The Australian Welder Certification Register
Having decided on this strategy, Weld Australia acquired an online system to help us manage the process of qualifying and certifying welders to ISO 9606-1: the Australian Welder Certification Register (AWCR).

Under the AWCR system, welders complete a test that qualifies them to a welding procedure as set out in ISO 9606-1. Once qualified, the welder is provided with a
test certificate to that procedure, becoming a Registered Welder, and the information recorded in the AWCR. The certificate is valid for up to three years, subject to six monthly confirmations by a responsible person (such as a supervisor or an approved examiner).

The AWCR system is already proving to be enormously beneficial for many organisations. It enables asset managers and owners to check the competence level of any Registered Welder against an internationally recognised Standard, minimising welder testing and reducing costs. By qualifying welders against a recognised and certified competency level, the risk of a welder failing a weld procedure is significantly reduced. In addition, asset managers can assess welders against current, rather than past, performance, and quickly and easily identify and contact Registered Welders for employment.

I encourage all Australian manufacturers to support the AWCR. Register your business on the AWCR, and ensure your employees and subcontractors are registered and certified via the AWCR. Access to the AWCR is completely free of charge for all Weld Australia members.

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