Validity Of Welder Qualification

In this article, we shall see about the various aspects related to the matter of validity of welder qualification as defined in ASME Section IX.

validity of welding performance qualification
What is the validity of a welder’s qualification in accordance with Section IX?

Validity Of Welder Qualification As Per ASME Section IX?

Generally, a qualification is valid for six months. However, the criterion for extending this validity as per Section IX is very liberal. A welder needs to have welded with that process before the expiry of six months, under the control and supervision of qualifying organization.

Doing this extends his validity by another six months.

Suppose a welder has multiple qualifications with a single process, say one qualification with SMAW, F-No. 4, with backing; and another qualification with SMAW, F-No. 43, without backing. To extend the validity of both these qualifications, he only needs to have engaged with SMAW process. Doing so will extend both of his qualifications.

Similar examples appear in the interpretations IX-83-113, IX-83-170, etc.

The validity is considered expired if the welder does not make ANY weld with that process. In that case, the validity has to be renewed by making a fresh test coupon, in accordance with QW 322.2.

Often, people get confused thinking that the welder only needs to have engaged in some welding in the six month period. Doing this will extend validity of all his performance qualifications (in all processes). That is not a correct understanding.

In fact, he needs to have engaged with each of the welding processes in which he is qualified, to maintain his qualifications. He may have 4 different qualifications: one in SMAW, one in GTAW, one in GMAW, and one in SAW. He needs to have engaged in ALL four of these processes to extend all four of his qualifications. If he does not engage in any of the process(es), his validity for that process(es) expires.

This small matter finds a mention in the Interpretations IX-86-52 and IX-01-21 (qs 1 & 2).

What is a process, one might ask. Can brazing be counted as a process. The answer is no (IX-83-164).

The interpretation IX-83-58 avers that the word “process” “refers to those welding processes for which welding variables have been established in QW-350 and QW-360.”

Is Any Testing Required For Extending Validity?

From the above paragraph, the criteria for extending validity seems pretty easy, right?

The welder simply needs to have welded with that process. How does that test his ability, one would ask? His ability to weld skilfully might have waned in six months. How does Section IX ensure that the welder has maintained his skill and ability to deposit sound welds.

Does Section IX require that the welds used to extend a welder’s qualification’s validity be subjected to NDE of some kind?

No, it does not.

Well, that is how it is. Section IX is very clear about this. It does not stipulate that the weld that is used to extend the validity of welder qualification be examined by any NDE of any sort, or even visual testing. Interpretation IX-17-01 establishes this beyond any doubt.

Section IX merely stipulates that the welder needs to have WELDED with that process, within the six month period from date of qualification. Doing so would extend his validity of all qualifications by another six months.

HOWEVER.

This has been reiterated many times on this blog – Section IX only specifies minimum requirements. It does not in any way stop fabricator from imposing any additional requirements, while not violating the basic Section IX stipulations.

For example, a fabricator may choose to extend validity only if the welds (that are cited to extend his validity) undergo and pass NDE with some criteria. The criteria can be same as the QW-190 of Section IX, or the criteria specified by the code of construction for the application, or any other criteria.

Some fabricators choose to re-test/requalify their welders after every one year, even though Section IX does not require it. That is a sign of a quality-conscious organization.

Some fabricators choose to ensure engagement in every three month period (instead of every six-months) for extending validity. This exceeds the basic expectation of Section IX, and therefore the fabricator is free to adopt this criteria. A similar example appears in Interpretation IX-79-69.

Revoking a Welder’s Qualification

The validity of a welder’s qualification can also be terminated if there is a specific reason to doubt his abilities. Such reason could be an observation of a systematic pattern of defects in the welds done by him.

The validity of a qualification revoked under such a condition cannot be restored by ordinary renewal procedure described in QW 322.2. The welder must re-take the original qualification test to restore his qualification.

Criteria For Revoking A Welder’s Qualification

What Are The Possible Criteria For Revoking A Welder’s Qualification(s) Under QW 322.1 (b)?

Section IX, in QW 322.1(b) stipulates that a welder’s qualification(s) can be revoked if there is a specific reason to question the ability of a welder to make welds meeting the specification requirements. The welder’s qualification(s) supporting such welds would be revoked, while all other qualifications shall continue to remain in effect.

Now, the Section IX does not specify what such a specific reason could be. This is left to the judgement of the welding engineer, or the authorised inspector.

What can be the possible reasons that can lead to such an action?

Well, for one – a welder might be producing consistently a series of welds containing weld defects that appear in a pattern. Appearance of defects in a pattern is a red flag, and can lead to revocation of his qualification(s).

Another reason could be that a welder’s original qualification was in a difficult position, say 4G/5G/6G. And the welder has been engaged in jobs that involve welding in 1G position for a long period of time. This may make the inspector ask for re-qualification of welder in the difficult position once again.

Another reason could be welder was away from all kind of welding work. Under such circumstance, an inspector may ask for a fresh qualification, even though Section IX permits renewal of qualification.

Another reason could be that the production joint has very stringent requirement.

For example, in my shop, tube-to-tube sheet joints make an appearance approximately once a year. The customer does not permit renewal of qualification as per QW 322.1(a), and insists – citing the criticality of the job in question – that the welders be qualified afresh, if there has occurred a gap of more than six months from the last welded date.

Sometimes, revocation of a welder’s qualification can be on non-technical grounds too. Occasionally, the organization revokes a welder’s qualifications as a disciplinary action too. Doing so would render the welder ineligible to weld on production joints, thus harming him monetarily.

Can Validity Be Revoked If His Production Welds Do Not Meet Section IX?

The interpretation IX-04-21 asked an interesting question.

A welder got qualified by making a test coupon. The coupon met the Section IX’s acceptance criteria for welder qualifications, laid out in QW-190/ QW-184.

In production welds, this welder failed to produce quality welds. His welds failed to meet the same criteria that were applied to his performance qualification coupon.

So the question is, is the welder required to meet the acceptance criteria of Section IX in his production welds too?

The answer is no. The committee replied likewise, in the interpretation. The criteria established in the the Article I of Section IX are only to be applied for qualification coupons, not the production welds. The criteria for evaluating the production welds is generally established by the construction code.

Secondly, can the welder’s validity be revoked if his production welds do not meet the acceptance criteria for welder qualifications, laid out in Section IX?

Once the first question is answered, this question is redundant anyway. The committee replied: “Section IX does not establish criteria for revoking welder qualifications.”

The decision for revoking validity can be taken by fabricator/inspector, based on the situation.

Extension Of Validity Through Non-Code Work

Can The Extension Of Validity Be Done By Welding On Non-Code Work?

In my shop, the bulk of the welding is done on projects that are manufactured under the compliance of ASME BPVC. The applicable Code of construction requires all welding qualifications to be in compliance with Section IX.

However, there is sizeable volume of non-Code welding always going on in my shop as well. If a welder engages in such non-Code welding, does it serve the stipulation of QW 322.1 (a) regarding engagement of a welder in the welding process that he is qualified for?

The answer is yes. Section IX does not specify what kind of job a welder must engage on, to satisfy the requirement of QW 322.1 (a). Section IX merely requires that the welder should have welded with that process. Period.

It does not matter whether his engagement is on a Code related work or non Code related work. It also does not matter whether he is engaged in welding of production joints, or repair of production joints, or welding of a qualification test coupon.

Also, it does not matter whether the weld joints welded by him are permanent joints or temporary joints, fillet joints or groove welds etc.

Although all of this is not explicitly stated in Section IX, understanding to this effect has been established through Interpretations issued by ASME over several decades. A few such Interpretation are IX-13-15 (qs1), IX-83-159, IX-92-22 (Qs 2, 3).

In fact, the interpretation IX-83-167 even goes to the extent of indicating that the welder need not even have used a qualified WPS for demonstrating his engagement with a welding process.

Having said this, there should be a clear verifiable evidence of the welds that are cited to extend the validity of a welder’s qualification(s). This is of course not a requirement of Section IX. The Section IX does not specify how conformance to QW 322 is demonstrated.

That is between manufacturer and authorised inspector. This was made clear in Interpretation IX-95-38.

Such requirement may generally be specified in the Code of construction. In my work place, the customer requires that such records be maintained, and produced whenever asked.

Extension Of Validity Through Another Performance Qualification

In the six month period following a welder’s qualification, if the welder engages in doing the welding in pursuance of another welding performance qualification (with the same process), it is considered enough proof of engagement of the welder on that process, for the purpose of extending the validity of his first qualification.

However, consider the following question.

A Welder’s Performance Qualification Test Coupon Failed To Meet The Acceptance Criteria In Radiography. Can This Welding Be Cited As A Welder’s Engagement For Extending His Validity Of His Other Qualifications With The Same Process?

An Interpretation issued by ASME in 2014 contained a fascinating query.

A welder got qualified to weld with a particular process, say SMAW process. Sometime after the qualification, the welder took test for another qualification with the same process, but with different essential variables (like different F Number etc.). This second qualification did not meet the acceptance criteria enshrined in QW 191 for radiography. This means that the welder failed to qualify for the second Performance Qualification test with SMAW process.

Can this failed qualification be cited as sufficient proof for welder’s engagement in welding with SMAW process, as required in QW 322.1 (a), for the purpose of extending validity of his first qualification?

The answer to this is yes. The ASME replied likewise, in the Interpretation IX-13-30.

This might sound counter to common sense. However, the Section IX chooses to keep the matters uncomplicated.

QW 322.1 only requires that welder needs to have welded with that process in the six month period following the qualification. The quality of the weld thus produced is immaterial for the purpose of extending validity.

In doing so, the Section IX has left the decision of continuation of validity, or revocation of a welder’s qualification – in the hands of authorised inspector. That is entirely commonsensical.

Starting Date Of Validity Of A Welder’s Qualification

A Welder’s Validity Starts From The Date Of Welding Or Date Of Declaration Of Results?

Generally, in my shop, welders are qualified through the volumetric NDE route. I use a groove weld test coupon, with a backing strip. Post welding, it takes a day or two machine-off (including the time to find a slot in the machining queue, closure of documents, and actual machining time) the backing strip, and another day or two for declaration of RT result by the NDE section.

Overall, the time taken from the date of completion of welding on the Performance Qualification test coupon to the declaration of RT results is maximum one week. Now, one week isn’t much, and usually there isn’t much controversy over it.

However, there is another kind of welder qualification which involves corrosion resistant weld metal overlay. As per customer specification, this coupon is required to be subjected to mechanical tests, in addition to dye-penetrant testing and ultrasonic examination of the cladding.

Things move very slowly in my organization. Between the time of completion of welding and the declaration of results by the Mechanical Testing Lab, the coupon must travel between various shops for machining of the clad surface, NDE of the cladding, and preparation of the specimens for mechanical testing, etc.

Add to this the time required for closure of documents for each of these stages, and the time spent by the coupon in each shop waiting for a slot for the activity to be carried out in that shop.

For this qualification, almost a month passes from the date of completion of welding to the date on which the test report containing mechanical test results is signed by the authorised inspector.

For such cases, for reckoning the validity of a welder’s qualification for a period of six months as permitted in QW 322.1, what should be the starting date?

The date of completion of welding? Or the date on the test report?

Section IX does not address this question. In my shop, the customer is in a bad habit of following both KTA codes and ASME Codes. The end result of having your feet in two boats is that, eventually, you make very little progress. Due to lack of commitment to any one set of rules, confusion prevails all around. Anyway, that is besides the point.

KTA 3201.3 stipulates that the date of declaration of results shall be counted as the date of start of validity of a welder’s qualification. And so, that is the practice that gets followed in my shops.

In my view, if the date of declaration of results falls with 20-25 days of the date of welding, there is no harm in adopting the date of results as the starting date of the qualification’s validity.

Edit: The 2019 edition of Section IX has finally addressed this matter. The QW 300.1 now says that the starting date of the welder’s qualification shall be the date of welding of the test coupon. This settles the matter for good.

Starting Date Of Extended Validity Of A Welder’s Qualification

While Extending The Validity Of A Welder’s Qualification, What Is The Starting Date Of The Extended Validity?

As per QW 322.1 (a), the validity of a welder’s qualifications for a process can be extended by a period of additional six months, if the welder has welded with that process within the six month period, prior to the expiration of the qualification.

The word ‘additional’ perhaps sows in some confusion here.

While extending the validity of a welder’s qualification for another six months, is the extension to be reckoned from the date of expiry of first six months? Or, is the extension supposed to be reckoned from the date of welding?

A question to this effect was posed to ASME. And the society responded in the form of Interpretation IX-10-17. It was replied that the last date on which the welder last welded with that welding process shall be reckoned as the starting date for the extension of validity of a welder’s Performance Qualifications for that process.

Frequently Asked Questions On Validity Of Welder Qualification

  • How Many Times Can A Welder’s Qualifications’ Validity Be Extended, In Accordance With QW 322.1?

Assuming that a welder remains continuously engaged in welding with a particular process, how many times can the validity of his qualification(s) be extended, in accordance with the stipulations of QW 322.1?

Does the Section IX, should I say, should the Section IX not intend that a welder’s capability to weld with a particular set of variables (position, F number etc.) be checked after a certain period of time? If not six months, may be 2 years?

How do we know that the welder retains his capability two years after his qualification? Does it not make sense to test his ability periodically, say annually or biennially?

Well, it seems that the Code has left this decision to the judgement of the welding engineer and the authorised inspector. This reflects in the form of QW 322.1 (b), which stipulates that a whenever there is a specific reason to question a welder’s ability to make welds meeting the specification requirements, his qualification(s) supporting those welds can be revoked. This power is vested with the inspector.

Welders whose qualifications have been revoked in this manner have to then re-qualify, as stipulated in QW 322.2 (b).

If there is no such reason, the validity of a welder’s qualification(s) continues forever. The Section IX does not place any restriction on the number of times QW 322.1 (a) may be used to extend the validity of a welder’s qualification.

A number of Interpretations issued by ASME reflect this thinking. One such example is IX-13-15 (Qs 2).

  • Can The Expired Validity Of A Welder, Qualified With GMAW – Short Circuiting Arc Transfer Mode, Be Renewed By Radiography Of Production Welds Welded By Him?

Section IX makes it clear in QW 304 that a welder welding in GMAW – short circuit arc transfer mode process, cannot be qualified by radiographic examination.

Okay. So a welder can be qualified only through mechanical testing if he has to weld in this process. Say, due to some reason, the validity of such a qualification gets expired. At least, can the renewal of this qualification be done by examining with radiography a production weld (welded of course by GMAW short circuit process) made by him, as permitted in QW 322.2 (a)?

The answer is no.

QW 322.2 (a) clearly says that a production weld used to extend the validity of a qualification must satisfy the requirement of QW 304. The QW 304, as we know, does not permit radiography for GMAW-short circuiting mode.

This was also clarified by ASME in Interpretation IX-04-13.

  • A Person Is Qualified Both As A Welder And A Welding Operator In The Same Process. As Per QW 322.1, Can The Validity Of Both His Qualifications Be Extended If He Welds Only As A Welder Or Only As A Welding Operator?

Say, a person is qualified as a welder in semi-automatic GMAW process and also qualified as a welding operator in automatic GMAW process. In the six months following the qualification, he is able to weld only with the semi-automatic GMAW process.

Does this extend his validity for welding with automatic GMAW as a welding operator too?

What about vice versa? If he is able to weld only with automatic GMAW as a welding operator, does this extend the validity of his welder qualification for semi-automatic GMAW process too?

The answer is no. The semi-automatic GMAW and automatic GMAW are considered two different processes, and are governed by different set of variables, set out in QW 350 and QW 360 respectively.

Welding as a welder and welding operator are counted as two different things. A person’s engagement as a welder cannot be used to extend the validity of his Performance Qualifications as a welding operator. And vice-versa.

A person’s engagement as a welding operator cannot be used to extend the validity of his Performance Qualifications as a welder.

Interpretations IX-81-27 and IX-89-38 firmly solidify this understanding.

  • A welder qualified on a coupon with 2 passes of GTAW at the root, and SMAW fill. GTAW only served as the backing for SMAW weld. In the six months after qualification, he engaged with GTAW and SMAW processes separately (that is, he did not use both processes in combination). Does this extend the validity of his qualification (GTAW at root + SMAW fill)?

Yes, it does.

Interpretation IX-15-13 addressed a similar query.

  • Does welding with GMAW extend welding of FCAW qualifications too? Or vice-versa?

Yes. Engaging with GMAW process extends the validity of FCAW qualifications. Also, engaging with FCAW process extends the validity of GMAW qualifications too. This finds confirmation in Interpretation IX-01-21 (qs 3).

Trivia: The validity of welder qualification was 3 months (as against the present day rule of six months) in the late seventies and early eighties. A welder needed to engage with that process (with which he qualified) within the 3 months to extend his validity by 3 months. However, the validity could be extended by another three months if he engaged with some other welding process too. This becomes apparent on perusing interpretations IX-79-91, IX-81-26, IX-81-34, etc.

So this was all about the validity of welder qualification in accordance with ASME Section IX. Please do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

All the Interpretations cited in the above article can be seen on the ASME’s official website, which can be accessed here.

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