fabrication has a lot of moving parts. The more complex a project becomes, the more moving parts it has, incorporating a variety of skilled trades and professionals: mechanical, coating, designers, engineers, architects. The number of variables that need to be accounted for to achieve a successful, structurally sound, and safe fabrication project can be truly mind-boggling.
Know the Difference Between “Qualified” and “Certified”
“So many weld shops say they have certified welders, but they really don’t,” Cameron said. “They’re not trying to deceive anyone; they just don’t know what the term means.”
A “certified welder” must be certified not by the welder’s employer but by a third party. Regardless of where the certification comes from, welders must meet the requirements, and the third party provides documentation to prove it.
“Also, the industry has different certifications for specific codes, positions, pipe diameters, material thicknesses,” Cameron added. “There are lots of specifics. If you say you’re a certified welder, I know that you’re certified in whatever the third-party documentation tells me you can do. But can you weld what I need you to weld? If it’s not in that documentation, I really don’t know. Maybe you’re certified in shielded metal arc welding [SMAW, or stick], but the job requires flux cored arc welding [FCAW].”
The vast majority of code-level welders in North America are not certified by a third party. They are instead “qualified welders.” That is, their employer or union tests and qualifies them to perform specific processes, positions, and thicknesses, as determined by the welding code that’s called for in the contract documents.
The jargon can be confusing—and can make for imprecise contract documents. “I often see contract documents stating that the job needs to be done by welders certified to AWS D1.1. If they meant it, it would be a costly proposition. Almost always, they mean they want welders qualified to AWS D1.1.”