IS 18224: General Standard for Qualification and Certification of Welding Inspection Personnel

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Dr. Shaju K Albert
Chairman, Welding General and its Applications Sectional Committee (MTD 11),
Bureau of Indian Standards, New Delhi

Abstract: Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) recently released a new Standard IS 18224 for qualification and certification of welding inspection personnel. Though welding is an important process employed in fabrication, and welding inspection is key to ensure the quality of welds present in fabricated components, piping, pipe lines and pressure vessels used in various industries, there was no Indian Standard to qualify and certify a welding inspection personnel in India. Accordingly, Welding General and its Applications Sectional Committee (MTD11) developed and released IS 18224 which meets this requirement in the fabrication sector of the Indian Industries. It is now possible to qualify the welding inspectors as per this standard and to have certified inspectors to carry out inspection of welds. This article gives details of this standard and explains how welding inspectors can be qualified and certified as per this standard.

1.0 Introduction

Welding is an important process extensively employed in fabrication. ISO 9001 considers welding as ‘special process’. As per the definition, ‘special process’ is one for which the product manufactured using this process cannot be tested prior to its use in service. For example, a steel plate produced in steel mill can be tested using test pieces from the plate for all the properties specified in the standard according to which this plate is produced. However, we cannot do that for a pressure vessel fabricated using welding process. Any attempt to test the weld used for fabrication of pressure vessel would result in destruction of the weld joint, which in turn means destruction of the pressure vessel itself. Yes, one can inspect the weld; but can not test the weld for its properties or performance. This is what is meant as a ‘special process’ as per the definition of ISO.

Now the question is how to ensure the quality of the product produced using ‘special processes’ like welding? This is achieved by ensuring quality of product at every stage of its production; right from procurement of raw materials, during fabrication and during inspection of the final product. Procuring raw materials as per appropriate standard specifications, fabricating components as per the codes and practices and inspection of the fabricated components by qualified inspectors are the method usually employed to ensure the quality of the final product. This brings to focus the need for properly qualified and certified welding inspectors to carry out inspection of fabricated welded components to ensure their quality. Accordingly, many countries and international standardization bodies have brought out procedural standards to qualify and certify welding inspectors. Further, it is mandatory that certified welding inspectors shall be employed by the fabricators or third-party inspectors during fabrication/inspection of the components. Welding Inspectors certified as per The Welding Institute (TWI), UK and American Welding Society (AWS), USA are among the most widely sought after welding inspectors in the fabrication industries throughout the world.

It is important to know that welding inspection is not just non-destructive inspection of the finished welded product. It is much more than that. It involves testing/verification of the raw materials, ensuring proper storage of consumables, inspecting the joint design, ensuring the availability of qualified welding procedure, procedure qualification records and qualified welders, ensuring the quality of welding power sources, monitoring welding parameters like voltage, current, welding speed etc. monitoring preheating, post heating, stress relieving heat treatment/post weld heat treatment, accepting/rejecting the final weld based on the results of destructive and non-destructive tests carried out and code/client acceptance criteria for the weld joints etc. In the absence of a designated welding inspector, all these activities related to welding inspection would be carried out by different departments of a fabrication shop: quality of raw material to be verified at the purchase department, storage of consumables by the stores, preparation of the join design by machine/fabrication shop, monitoring the welding parameters by welding supervisor, testing and inspection by NDT/inspection wing. This is not the way to ensure the quality of the welded product because in the absence of proper coordination among various departments, it would be difficult to find out what went wrong in case of a weld failure. This is also not an efficient way to complete a given task.

As India is fast developing a manufacturing hub for world and Government is giving a lot of push to ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’,  Welding General and its Application Sectional Committee (MTD 11) realized the need for India’s own standard for qualifying and certifying welding inspection personnel. With IS 18224 released in March 2023, India has its own standard for this purpose. These welding inspectors can be employed in the fabrication sector, inspection agencies, design consultants and legal and insurance agencies. Now it is the responsibility of the regulatory agencies and industrial bodies and relevant Government Departments to ensure that industries in which welding is a special process for fabrication employ certified welding inspectors in their pay roll to coordinate the various inspection activities associated with welding to ensure the quality of the welded product and also to minimize the rejection of the components due to poor quality.

2.0 Content of IS 18224

While drafting IS 18224, a thorough review of the other national and international standards available for certifying welding inspection personnel was first undertaken. The committee ensured that the level of the new standard is certainly comparable or better than that of the standards existing in other countries. The content of the standard includes a) levels of certification offered and qualification requirements for applying, b) Knowledge level expected from the candidate for each level, c) National Certification Board and d) Process of certification

2.1 Levels of Certification

The standard offers three levels of certification for welding inspection personnel; basic (Certified Welding Inspector – Basic (CWIB)) , standard (CWIS) and advanced (CWIA). It specifies a combination of minimum qualification and experience to apply for the certification. This combination is proposed in such a way that even a welder with sufficient experience and knowledge can be certified as a welding inspector.  An Engineering graduate with just six months of experience in welding inspection or  a welder with a sufficient experience and knowledge of welding and welding inspection is eligible to apply. Only for CWIA, the minimum qualification is Xth pass and the candidate should already be a CWIS while applying. The higher the education qualification of the applicant, the lower is the minimum requirement for experience. The candidate shall also meet near vision and colour vision requirements as specified in the standards.

2.2 Knowledge level

In addition to educational qualification and experience, knowledge level expected for each level of certification is clearly given in the standard. It is not mandatory that the candidate should undergo a course or training, though it may be to the advantage of the candidate if he/she takes such course or training covering the knowledge level specified in the standard to clear the examination. Candidate should know different welding processes, especially arc welding processes, welding metallurgy, welding symbols, position of welding, testing of welds, non-destructive testing of welds, codes and standards, concepts of quality controls, welding power sources, welder qualification, procedure qualification, procedure qualification records, etc. The level of knowledge increases with level of certification changes from basic to standard to advanced. As Indian companies take up fabrication of components as per different standards and codes, the knowledge level required cover specific knowledge of not only IS standards but also ISO standards, AWS structural welding code D 1.1 and ASME pressure vessel and piping codes. Knowledge of IBR 608 and 509 is also required.

2.3 National Certification Body

The certification activity that includes all procedures adopted to demonstrate the qualification of an individual to carry out tasks in a specific level of welding inspection and leads to a written testimony of his competence shall be administered by a National Certifying Body (NCB). The NCB shall be a professional body having suitable competence in the area of  welding inspection and accredited by National Accreditation Board for Certifying Bodies (NABCB) of Quality Council of India (QCI) in compliance to IS/ISO/IEC 17024 as a certification body for personnel. It shall include eminent representatives from academic institutes, research centre, industries, government nodal ministries, public sector undertakings, private sector, other related societies or institutes, insurance bodies, third party inspection agencies including classification societies as appropriate. It is the responsibility of the NCB to establish examination centres and appoint examiners for the conduct of the examination leading to certification. It should also invite and accept application from candidates or their employees, verify the eligibility of the candidates, conduct examination which include preparation of question papers, evaluation of the answer sheets, conduct of practical examination and conduct of the viva, compilation of the marks obtained, announcement of the results, issue of certificates and keeping of the records of all the activities conducted. NCB shall establish a code of ethics applicable to the members, examiners and the certificate holders.  It shall develop and maintain a quality manual which shall outline the quality policy and objectives of NCB and also detail/document the procedure methodology including implementation. It may delegate, under its direct responsibility, the detailed administration of the certification procedure to other organizations which will act as qualifying bodies and which could represent industrial sectors. It can also approve training centres which can train the candidates who meet the eligibility criteria for qualification and certification as per the knowledge level specified in this standard. Such training centres can also act as examination centres, but the trainers shall not have any role in the conduct of examination and the assessment of the candidates.

2.4. Procedure for Certification

Procedure to be followed for certification include a formal application to be made to the NCB either by the employer of the candidate or by the candidate, evaluation of the application form by the authorized examiners of the NCB, acceptance of the application, announcement of the examination, conduct of the examination, evaluation of the theory paper, assessment of the results of the practical test and performance in the viva voce examination, declaration of the result by NCB and issue of certificates. NCB shall preserve all the documents related to the entire procedure. The examination consists of three parts, theory, practical and viva with weightage of 40:40:20. The candidate shall score 70% to be eligible for certified welding inspector. Examination would be different for each level of certification. If a candidate fails to secure the qualifying marks as indicated above, he/she will get two more chances to reappear and clear it within next 2 years from the date of appearing in the first exam. Based on the marks obtained and self-assessment, he/she is free to decide in which part(s) he/she will reappear and submit re-examination fees accordingly. At the end of each attempt, the candidate will be evaluated, taking the best of the available results in each part, and result communicated. However, after appearing thrice (one regular and two re-exams) if a candidate can’t meet the pass criteria, he/she will be declared fail. In that case, he has to repeat the full qualifying examination.

Validity of certificate is for five years, provided the candidate is engaged in the activity of welding inspection without any major interruption. Candidate can renew the certificate once for another five more years provided a formal application is made to the NCB within six months of the expiry date of the certificate. Candidate has to be re-certified at the expiry of the first renewal (after 10 years of first certification) as per the procedure laid out by NCB at that point of time.

3.0 Present status

Now one year is over after BIS released this new standard for certification of welding inspectors. The Indian Institute of Welding (IIW-INDIA), professional body representing India in International Institute of Welding has established National Certification Board and has applied to National Accreditation Board of Certifying Bodies (NABCB) under Quality Council of India (QCI) for accreditation. The accreditation process is in progress while NCB of IIW-INDIA is in the process of identifying examination centres and examiners for the conduct of the examination. They are also looking for training bodies who can act as authorized training centres that can train the candidates as per the requirement of the standard. Preparation of question banks, test coupons for practical etc are in progress. It is hoped that by this year end, we would have NCB with accreditation from NABCB to qualify and certify welding inspectors as per this standard. It is important to note that as per ISO 17024, welding inspectors certified as per this standard and approved by the National Accreditation Body (NABCB in India) is recognized as a welding inspector by the ISO member countries also.

4.0 Responsibilities of Indian Welding Fraternity

Now India has its own standard for certifying welding inspectors, it is important that we certify the welding professional involved in welding inspection as per this standard. Those who give work orders for welded fabrication should demand presence of certified welding inspectors in the fabrication shops. Fabricators should certify their welding inspectors as per this standard and take advantage of this when they quote for works involving welding. Inspection agencies should have certified welding inspectors to carry out third party inspection of the welded fabrication. Training agencies should come forward to train the welding inspectors as per this standard to offer them for certification. Companies can recruit certified welding inspectors for the exclusive job of welding inspectors in their companies. Regulatory bodies shall insist on presence of welding inspectors who are authorized to sign the welding related documents in the fabrication shop.

At present, there is no mandatory requirement for certified welding inspectors to carry out welding related inspection work in our country. This is not the situation in USA, Europe, Australia, Japan and many other countries. One reason for this could be that India did not have its own standard for certifying welding inspectors. Now situation has changed, we have our own standard for certifying and qualifying welding inspectors which is as good as any other standard available for certifying welding inspectors. Hence, it is important that Government agencies, industrial bodies and regulatory authorities should make inspection of welding activities during fabrication by certified welding inspectors mandatory. This, not only would improve the quality of welded construction, but also lead to better coordination of welding activities, reduction in time for welding inspection, reduction in the defective welds and overall cost and time benefit for the industries.