Picture this: a company is offered a chance to submit a request for proposal on a significant, lucrative contract. It reads through the proposal and finds that the contract requires nondestructive testing (NDT) to be performed. Three options are given: Turn down the work because the company has no knowledge of NDT; perform the NDT internally; or have a qualified company perform the NDT.
Obviously, the first option is not the best choice. In the other situations, a company is responsible for either certification of its personnel or verifying the certifications of the outside agency’s personnel. Often a company will find itself in this position and have no clue how to establish an appropriate program to certify its personnel or verify certification of an outside agency’s personnel.
In the past, personnel certification was performed by an expert who trained employees within their facilities. Shortly thereafter, a certificate would arrive in the mail that could be hung on the wall. It looked official and often was adequate for customers and regulators, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Unfortunately, for the technician and his customer, those certificates may not have met all of the criteria of certification. In fact, the training performed by this expert was most likely only 25% of the requirements for certification of personnel. This is a trend that is evolving.
Qualification vs. CertificationQualification and certification become quite confusing to the novice NDT practitioner, and at first glance, one would think they might mean the same thing.
After seeing the definitions, it becomes quite clear these are two functions. Qualification is the process of learning and proving how to perform NDT, and certification is just the documentation that was done.
There are many ways personnel are certified to perform NDT throughout the world. There are a few widely accepted ways of establishing personnel qualification and certification in various industries, for example, NAS-410 is widely used in the aviation industry. This article deals primarily with qualification and certification schemes used in the United States. The following gives an overview of the steps required to properly establish a qualification and certification program in a company.
Employer-Based CertificationReview contract documentation: Contract documents should be reviewed to determine how the NDT personnel are to be qualified and certified. The documents should include some reference, such as “Personnel performing ultrasonic testing shall be qualified and certified in accordance with SNT-TC-1A.”
When such wording is absent, the discrepancy should be cleared up with the customer and the contract documents amended. When the customer chooses to remain silent on such matters, the NDT company should keep in mind that if any litigation arises from this work or subsequent operation, if they have performed their work with due diligence, it will be a good reflection on them.
Establish written practice: The procedure ought to be written to comply with one of several documents designed to help guide the company in designing the written practice. Several examples include the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) Document-SNT-TC-1A (recommended practice for company-based certification), National Aerospace Standard (NAS) NAS-410 or American Association of Railroads Appendix T (code).
A company must determine which standard is most appropriate for its situation.
Notice these are different types of documents. A recommended practice is designed to give a set of recommendations that may be changed, a standard is a set minimum, and a document tied to a code means it is tied to a law. This procedure may be authored by the company or by a qualified outside agency.
Employ an NDT Level III: The standards described above require NDT Level I, II and III personnel be certified by the employer. Level I technicians are only qualified to execute certain tests and calibrations, while Level II technicians are qualified to set up and calibrate equipment, conduct the inspection according to procedures, interpret, evaluate and document results in all the testing methods used by the certificate holder, according to the NDT Resource Center. Level III technicians are responsible for the training of both Level I and II technicians and may act as a supervisor or consultant.
For economic reasons, an employer may opt to use a qualified outside agency Level III rather than employ a full-time Level III. The standards described above require a Level III to be responsible for administering examinations to Level I and II personnel, maintaining certification records and establishing techniques and procedures. Some of these duties may be delegated by the responsible Level III.
Qualify Level I and II personnel: Candidates must have adequate education, training and experience in order to qualify for Level I, II or III certification. A company Level III, a qualified instructor or a qualified outside agency, must perform the training.
The general examination for Level I and II covers NDT method theory, principles and applications. The specific examination tests the candidate’s knowledge of company procedures, techniques and specifications commonly used. The practical examination demonstrates the candidate’s ability to perform the NDT method and evaluate the results. The candidate also must pass a vision examination, because it is essential that NDT technicians have accurate near sight and color vision. In addition, these exams are required to be administered by a Level III.
These minimum requirements are detailed in the company’s written practice or Procedure for Qualification and Certification of NDT Personnel. For example, a magnetic particle Level II candidate must have:
Employer certification of Level I or II personnel: The employer may certify the candidate to the appropriate level upon successful completion of the training, experience and examinations. The employer must keep records of qualifications, examinations and certifications on file.
An outside agency can only provide Level III services-certification is the responsibility of the employer. Certifications are normally valid for a period of three or five years, depending on the document that their written practice was meant to comply with. Near vision exams must be performed on a yearly basis.
As an employer, or one who is responsible for personnel who perform NDT, be aware of the company’s responsibilities:
NDT personnel qualification and certification should be performed in accordance with the company’s written practice document. Qualification consists of primarily three things-training, experience and testing. Certifications and records must be kept up-to-date. NDT