·Table of Contents
Harmonisation and Mutual Recognition of Personnel Certification - cooperation or competition ?DR J M FARLEY,
MITSUI BABCOCK, RENFREW, UK
1.1 Company based certification versus Third Party Central certification.
There is long-standing debate between the proponents of the two types of scheme. Company-based certification is mostly based on the SNT-TC-1A approach and is especially favoured in the USA and is used world-wide in business areas which employ American codes and standards. Third party independent central certification is employed in the rest of the world and is particularly favoured in Europe, parts of Asia, Canada etc. This type of certification has been 'standardised' at European and International level through EN473 and ISO9712.
Proponents of company-based certification argue the benefits of training and certification being directed closely at the needs of the particular company's NDT business. Those who favour third party central certification argue the benefits of standardisation, harmonisation, independence.
There is a gradual coming together of the central independent and company-based approaches. The former are increasingly aware of the need for the central certification to be used in the correct way - as part of an organisation's quality systems for NDT - and the standards for company-based certification are bringing in requirements for external assessment eg. independently certified Level 3s.
1.2 COMPETITION BETWEEN EN473 VERSUS ISO9712 STANDARDS
These standards for third party certification had the same roots in the ICNDT Recommendations for Training but diverged during the development stage. The differences are relatively minor but are a cause of confusion. ICNDT strongly supports the moves within CEN and ISO to achieve the convergence of the two standards as soon as possible.
In practice in the meantime, it is realistic for a personnel certification scheme to meet the minimum requirements of both standards and this is the case for many schemes in Europe.
1.3 Competition between Personnel Certification schemes
In most countries in the world there is competition between the different NDT personnel certification schemes. For example, throughout Europe there exist accredited national third party independent certification schemes which are linked to the national NDT societies. In some countries (eg. Russia, Sweden) there are several such schemes. These schemes, which offer EN473/ISO9712 certification, operate in competition with providers of ASNT Certification to SNT-TC-1A. ASNT conducts Level 3 examinations to its own standard in several European countries. There is also competition from schemes operated by welding societies. In the USA, ASNT faces competition from the welding societies.
There are both advantages and disadvantages from this competition. Arguably it keeps costs/prices of individual schemes down and it keeps certification providers closely focused on the needs of the customer. However the competition also has disadvantages. It inhibits any desire to raise quality standards and the existence of multiple certification causes additional costs. Individuals who carry one type of certification frequently have to be retrained and re-examined to gain a second or third type of certificate.
This type of situation existed in Britain in the 1980s with a plethora of separate schemes (CSWIP, CEGB, MOD, British Gas, etc.). The folly of this situation was realised and most of the schemes combined in a new national British scheme PCN operated by the British Institute of NDT which has successfully developed and provides certification recognised worldwide for British companies operating in several industrial sectors. Whilst all of the rules of the scheme are set centrally at PCN and certificates are issued from the headquarters, the scheme allows competition in service provision between a number of Test/Examination Centres distributed geographically around the country. PCN has been accredited against the standard EN45013 by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service since 1993 and additionally has been appointed as a conformity assessment body for the purpose of the Pressure Equipment Regulations 1999.
Cooperation in the area of training and certification of NDT personnel began in ICNDT. In 1985, ICNDT published its Recommendation ICNDT WH 15-85 "Basic Requirements for National Personnel Qualification and Certification Schemes" which had been prepared by a Working Group on Harmonisation of Training and Qualification of NDT Personnel. This document, which was re-published in the ICNDT Journal No.2 April 1999, set down the key principles to be followed in the establishment of national independent third party central certification schemes. ICNDT also published a Training Syllabus for each method (ICNT WH 16-85 to 22-85). These principles and most of the details were embodied in the International Standard (ISO9712) and the European Standard (EN473).
Recently the ICNDT Policy and General Purposes Committee formed a Task Group, chaired by Mr G Aufricht (Austria) to update the training documents, and extend them to cover acoustic emission, visual testing and eddy current testing.
ICNDT also provides a meeting place between representatives of the certification schemes operated or sponsored by NDT Societies around the world.
The ISO Committee TC135 SC7 and the CEN Technical Committee TC138 are important meeting places of certification specialists nominated via the standards organisations in each member country.
2.2 European Federation of NDT (EFNDT) MRA
At a meeting convened during the 6th European Conference on NDT held in Nice, France, during 1994, the representatives of member bodies of the then European Council for Non-Destructive Testing (ECNDT) - now the European Federation (EFNDT) - signed a declaration of intent to establish Multilateral Mutual Recognition of Certification within the membership of the ECNDT.
The work of developing a Multilateral Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) was entrusted to a Working Group on EU/EFTA matters. This group has subsequently been renamed the Working Group on Qualification and Certification, and has produced and implemented for the European Federation for NDT (EFNDT) a Multilateral Agreement for NDT personnel certification.
The objectives of this Agreement are:
The Agreement is open to NDT Personnel Qualification and Certification schemes which are:
Each scheme which is party to and a signatory of this Agreement accepts that each party registered under the Agreement meets the requirements of European Standards and associated technical documents for which they hold current accreditation.
A scheme meeting the criteria which wishes to become registered under the Agreement submits to the EFNDT Working Group Secretariat:
The acceptance of the new party is ratified by a simple majority of the participants in the Agreement at the next appropriate WG meeting.
Being signatory to the MRA involves discharging a number of obligations. Each party to the Agreement has agreed to:
More than 25 national NDT Societies have signed the MRA and 16 Certification Schemes in 14 countries have gained EFNDT Recognition.
The latest version of the schedule is available on the EFNDT Website or from EFNDT member NDT Societies or the Working Group Secretariat at the British Institute of NDT, 1 Spencer Parade, Northampton NN1 5AA, United Kingdom.
EFNDT has now modified its Mutual Recognition Agreement such that countries outside Europe can participate.
2.3 EFNDT: European Certification Process (ECP)
At an international conference on certification and standardisation held in England during 1996 it was proposed to establish a European wide certification scheme. Subsequently, informal discussions resulted in a meeting between representatives of the British Institute of NDT, COFREND and DGZfP to discuss the practicalities of the proposal. As a result, it was agreed that the three societies would jointly develop, for the then European Council for NDT, subsequently to become the EFNDT (European Federation for NDT), a European Central Certification Process (ECP).
A working group was formed from representatives of each of the founding NDT Societies. This group was constituted at a June 1997 meeting of the ECNDT Qualification & Certification Working Group as a Working Group of ECNDT with a remit to develop the European Certification Process on the basis of an initial proposal by the founding NDT societies.
The Working Group drafted base documents which were circulated for internal comment and subsequently modified by consensus to reflect a level of requirement which satisfies EN473 (2000) and which should be acceptable to all participants.
The work also included the development of a European question bank available in the three languages of CEN, each of the participants contributing sufficient questions to construct three examination papers for each examination module encompassed by the ECP.
It is intended that, once the European Certification Programme is fully documented and successful trials have been carried out by the founders, the ECP would become available for implementation by other national certifying bodies, in whole or in part, to augment or supersede their existing requirements. Participating certification bodies will continue to maintain their separate independent status and national accreditation.
More details are given in the paper by Kaps, Roche and Thompson (15th WCNDT).
Imperatives which demand cooperation are:-
In the specific area of NDT Personnel Certification, key strategies should be adopted:
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