Shoddy welding ‘will lead to deaths’

Image: www.rigg-access.com

Public safety is at risk unless Australian politicians legislate to enforce compliance with Australian standards for fabricated steel, Welding Technology Institute of Australia (WTIA) CEO Geoff Crittenden has warned.

“All fabricated steel being erected in Australia must be certified as compliant with the standards and the standards must be enforced,” he said.

Mr Crittenden says he has just received copies of documentation that show a grain silo under construction in a rural Australian location, which he will not identify, is being built from imported fabricated steel modules that are not compliant.

Mr Crittenden said a WTIA-certified senior welding inspector’s report showed 10 separate items tested did not comply. Problems identified included undersize, missing and incomplete welds.

A separate qualified consultant’s visual weld inspection of the imported silo support structure found none of the welds inspected was compliant with the Australian standard, AS/NZS 1554.1:2014. “The welds are deemed unacceptable,” the report said.

Both reports include photographs that clearly show the sub-standard welds.

“Despite the serious safety issues raised in these reports, my understanding is construction is proceeding with no rectification of the non-compliant welds,” Mr Crittenden said.

“Compliance with Australian standards is not mandatory and there is no way anyone can legally force the owner to rectify the shoddy workmanship.

“The standard is a toothless tiger. We need a law that says no fabricated steel structure can be erected in Australia without being inspected and certified as compliant.”

Mr Crittenden said he wants a bi-partisan approach from all politicians to support such legislation, regardless of who is running the country after 2 July.

“This silo is just one example of a problem that is rampant across the nation. About 85% of imported fabricated steel is non-compliant. My colleagues and I in the steel supply chain have provided details of dangerous structures, including a footbridge between two schools, to government agencies but our warnings have been ignored.

“We’ve got a watchdog, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, that protects children from unsafe imported toys, but there is no regulation to protect the Australian public from imported, fabricated steel that poses serious safety risks to all Australians,” he said.

Mr Crittenden gave evidence in April to the Senate Economics References Committee’s inquiry into the future of Australia’s steel industry and explained there was no law requiring fabricated steel to be inspected by a qualified welding inspector to ensure it met Australian welding standards.

He suggested a two-tiered scheme with audited self-certification permitted for some fabricated products, but compulsory third-party certification for fabricated steel used in high-risk projects, including road, rail, mining and energy infrastructure.

WTIA, as the welding industry’s peak body, could manage the scheme at no cost to the Federal Government, including facilitating independent, third-party qualified inspectors to ensure welds on imported steel were safe.

“We need commitments from all sides of politics to legislate. Must we wait for deaths to occur? We need action now,” Mr Crittenden said.