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Training and Certification for Non-Destructive Testing: What is all the fuss about?Dr Gary G Martin MIEAust CPEng
PO Box 286
SPRINGVALE VIC 3171
In 1992 Standards Australia published AS 3998-1992, Non-destructive testing - Qualification and certification of personnel - General Engineering, based on the draft International Standard ISO/DIS 9712.2. The Standard was prepared in response to the need for training and accreditation that provided a level of confidence in the skills of the NDT technician that was not previously available. It was based on the ISO draft Standard because of the need for international harmonisation of NDT personnel qualification and certification schemes, as this was already the basis for many similar schemes, particularly in Europe and Asia. Now that Standard is about to be republished based on ISO 9712, 1999 and it contains some significant changes that affect training requirements.
Now that the requirement for technicians certificated to AS 3998 has become part of other Standards and NATA has changed the guidelines for signatory approval a few problems have arisen for those personnel not accredited to AS 3998.
This paper discusses the reasons behind the move to an International based accreditation system, outlines its operation and looks at the most recent requirements of AS 3998 (ISO 9712). The role of Certification in a recent pay rate negotiation and the implications for certificated and non-certificated personnel is mentioned. Finally some suggestions for ensuring wider acceptance of the scheme outside Australia are mentioned.
In 1992 Standards Australia published AS 3998-1992 , Non-destructive testing - Qualification and certification of personnel - General Engineering, based on the draft International Standard ISO/DIS 9712.2 . The Standard was prepared in response to industries' need for training and accreditation that provided a level of confidence in the skills of the NDT technician that was not previously available. It was based on the ISO draft Standard because of the perceived need for international harmonisation of NDT personnel qualification and certification schemes, and this was already the basis for many similar schemes, particularly in Europe and Asia. Now even the Americans and Canadians have based their Certification schemes on the draft ISO Standard. This new Australian Standard called for independent certification of the NDT technician, in this case by the Australian Institute for Non-Destructive Testing (AINDT).
For Australian industry to compete with overseas industry inspection carried out here has to be accepted overseas. It was felt that inspection by NDT technicians Certified to a Standard based on an ISO Standard would achieve this. Recently NATA, who have supported this Certification scheme have announced that non-destructive testing carried out by NATA Accredited laboratories will be accepted in many overseas companies.
AINDT has set in place a Secretariat to handle the day to day running of the Certification process as well as a Board, the Certification Board, to oversee the administration of the new AINDT Certification scheme. It has also received a $40,000 grant from the Trade and Industry Branch, Department of Industry, Science and Resources under the APEC Market Integration / Industry Collaboration Program to assist in implementing the program, including an audit against JAS-ANZ criteria for bodies operating certification of personnel; viz. JAS-ANZ Procedure 20, incorporating EN 45013 and European Accreditation of Certification (EAC) Guidance EAC/G4. At the time of writing this audit was due for on-site assessment.
While many teething problems have been experienced and more work is required to fully implement the scheme, it is up and running and provides NDT technicians with demonstrated inspection skills for industry. AINDT has tried to ensure all personnel in the NDT industry understand the new Certification scheme and are given the opportunity to become part of it. This has been through articles published in our Journal Non-Destructive Testing - Australia, by submitting information to other media outlets, talks to the various Branches and Seminars around the country. Of course this information mostly goes to members of AINDT and they do not always take the information in.
Earlier this year a special branch meeting was conducted in NSW because many older technicians thought that they were being adversely affected by the scheme. At that meeting it was explained that NATA, in order to meet its responsibilities, could only accredit personnel with demonstrated training and competency, i.e. Certification by one means or another. Those personnel who had no Certification were to have their signatory approval removed, even though they had been in the industry for many years. As the scheme has been in place for nearly 10 years they have had ample time and opportunity to join it and demonstrate their own competency.
More recently, Certification and the Competency Standard developed by Metals, Engineering and Related Services Industry Training Advisory Board (MERSITAB) in conjunction with AINDT members, have been used to establish minimum rates of pay under an Enterprise Bargaining (EBA) Agreement, in Victoria.
The next, but not the most difficult stage, is to gain acceptance of the scheme outside Australia, in the same way that PCN, CSWIP, CGSB, ASNT are recognised in Australia.
AS 3998 has been reviewed in light of the recent publication of ISO 9712 - 1999. Basically the new scheme provides certification by an employer independent organisation (AINDT), at any of three levels of competence (1,2 or 3) for a particular NDT method (e.g. ultrasonics) in an industrial sector (e.g. welds, multi-sector) It provides for three levels of competence as follows:
NDT level 1.
An individual certified to NDT level 1 is qualified to carry out NDT operations in accordance with written instructions and under the supervision of level 2 or level 3 personnel.
He shall be able to:
He shall not be responsible for the choice of the test method or technique to be used.
NDT level 2.
An individual certified to NDT level 2 is qualified to perform and direct non-destructive testing in accordance with established or recognized procedures.
This may include:
NDT level 3.
An individual certified to NDT level 3 may be authorized to direct any operation in the NDT method(s) for which he is certified. This may include:
He shall have:
Certification is for a limited period, five years initially, and must be renewed, either on the basis of continuing work experience in the appropriate area or examination. After ten years re-certification is based on examination.
The NDT methods and Industrial sectors are in which certification is available are:
|Non-Destructive Test Method|
|Penetrant (PT)||Magnetic Particle (MT)||Ultrasonics (UT)||Radiography (RT)||Eddy Current (ET)||Thermo-graphy (IRT)|
|Aerospace||Under - water||Forgings||Forgings|
|Aerospace||Under - water||Aerospace|
Discussions on extending the scheme to take in other methods, such as Visual Testing and Acoustic Emission, are ongoing and other sectors, such as rail inspection, may be made available if there is a demand.
It must be remembered that in all cases certification is only the initial step in assuring the quality of inspection because the training and particularly the practical examinations cannot cover every conceivable inspection situation. Ultimately it is the employer's responsibility to ensure the competence of NDT technicians employed by the company.
To obtain certification to AS 3998-1992 , requires a mixture of academic and practical experience, thus it is necessary to be employed in the industry as a trainee, either before or after formal training.
Candidates at Level 1 or Level 2 who have passed the theory and practical examinations but who do not have the appropriate practical experience may be registered as trainees by the AINDT until they obtain the required experience for certification.
Before certification a technician must provide evidence of satisfactory vision as follows:
Distant vision shall equal Snellen fraction 20/30 or better in at least one eye, either uncorrected or corrected.
Near vision sufficient to read the Jaeger number 1 size letters at a distance of not less than 300mm in at least one eye, either uncorrected or corrected.
Colour vision shall be sufficient to distinguish the contrast between colours used in the particular NDT method.
3.2 TRAINING HOURS AND EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS
AS 3998-2001 indicates the following hours of training and experience are required before certification by AINDT:
|Eddy current testing||40||3|
|Magnetic particle testing||16||1|
|Training (hours)||Experience (months)|
|NDT Method||With Level 1||Without Level 1||With Level 1||Without Level 1|
|Eddy current testing (ET2)||40||80||9||12|
|Magnetic particle testing (MT2)||24||40||3||4|
|Penetrant testing (PT2)||24||40||3||3|
|Radiographic testing (RT2)||80||120||9||12|
|Ultrasonic testing (UT2)||80||120||9||12|
In Australia NDT training traditionally has been carried out in Institutes of Technical and Further Education (TAFE's). These have been located in the capital cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. Courses have been offered in some smaller towns such as Newcastle and Wollongong. These courses have been part-time either 4 - 6 hours every second week or 2 - 4 hours on weeknights
There are still some states inadequately serviced due to their large area and distances to be travelled or inadequate numbers for cost effective courses. Examples are Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia.
Recently full-time short duration courses have been provided by private providers in Melbourne, Adelaide, Wodonga and on manufacturers premises. These enable technicians to attend courses of 2 days to 2 weeks duration, well away from the day to day demands of the workplace. They allow companies plan for absences of technical staff and provide a competent technicians in a very short period of time.
The courses are based on the requirements of AS 3998-2001 and the AINDT as well as TAFE module descriptors (syllabi). These closely follow the requirements of ISO/DIS 9712.2 and its most recent successor ISO 9712:1999(E) . The requirement for which are set down in IAEA-TECDOC-628 . This ensures that the following subjects are covered all in training classes:
For compliance with AS 3998 examinations must be provided and assessed by the independent certifying body, AINDT, or accredited examination centres. AINDT holds exams in July and December of each year, although special exams may be provided if there are 6 or more candidates. Also one private provider provides exams at the end of each course.
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|NDT method Theory||NDT method Theory||Basic|
|Industry Specific Examination - General Industry||Industry Specific Examination, e.g. Multi-sector, Welds, Castings, etc||Industry Specific Examination, e.g. Multi-sector, Welds, Castings, etc|
|NDT method Practical||Industry Specific Practical, e.g. Multi-sector Welds, Castings, etc||Level 2 Industry Specific Practical, e.g. Multi-sector Welds, Castings, etc|
In all cases the minimum pass mark is 70%.
According to Sheedy  the education of all personnel must ultimately be of advantage to industry and the NDT technicians:
Indeed, now that MERSITAB have put a competency standard in place, certification has been used as the basis of the pay structure for technicians in the industry under the most recent EBA, negotiated between employers and employees, in Victoria.
If the scheme is to obtain wider acceptance, then its operation and benefits must be explained to a wide range of industries. NDT technicians are employed in a variety of industries, including; maintenance of off-shore platforms, both under-water and top-side; construction and maintenance of pipelines, pressure vessels, bridges, cranes, tanks and tankers, aerospace vehicles; power generation equipment, and research facilities. All of these need to be made aware of the advantages, generally cost benefits, of employing AINDT Certified personnel, with demonstrated
Of course, the Certified technicians will sell it to the companies they work with, through the quality of their work. But AINDT needs to get the service companies throughout Australia together and encourage them to sell it to all of their customers. Then AINDT needs to sell it further inside its own borders and outside Australia, by attending International conferences such as this and others in Industrial sectors that use NDT, so that the word spreads further until technicians Certified under this International Standards Organisation based Standard are also Internationally accepted.
Then we come to work permits, and that's another story altogether. Something to do with politics.
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