The Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) and the South African Institute of Nondestructive Testing (Saint) have called for a harmonised South African nondestructive testing (NDT) qualification and certification scheme, which will improve not only the quality of NDT technicians in South Africa, but also the practicality of cross-sector networking.
SAIW NDT manager, Saint council member and chairperson of the Saint Professional Body for NDT Harold Jansen says this process will embrace and advance governmental localisation efforts within NDT, specifically when considering the extensive nuclear and railway projects that the South African government has embarked on.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act aims to protect members of the public as well as employees at their place of work and this can only be achieved through regular and mandated inspections during manufacturing, construction and operation.
“Structural integrity, as well as safe and productive operation of safety-critical components such as pressure vessels or steam generators, depends on a highly skilled NDT workforce, comprehensive quality systems and well-managed and -maintained resources. It is up to industry to comply with the three steps of a comprehensive professional designation system, designed to improve, maintain and support the highly skilled South African NDT workforce,” adds Jansen.
Basic Qualification and Personnel Certification
The first step, which refers to the individual’s basic qualification, is performed in compliance with the internationally recognised standard for qualification and certification of NDT personnel, ISO 9712. Approved training bodies are corporate entities that provide approved and recognised training in accordance with documented syllabi and training material.
Independent qualification examinations are performed at approved examination centres under the control of the authorised qualification body and personnel certification scheme.
Certification of personnel is based on successful completion of the qualification examination (70% for each examination component) and submission of a valid vision acuity test, an industrial experience logbook and company authorisation. Personnel certificates are issued by the personnel certification body in accordance with ISO 9712 and is valid for five years.
Saint, a member of the International Community for Nondestructive Testing (ICNDT), has recommended that the South African Qualification and Certification Committee for NDT (SAQCC–NDT) scheme be adopted as the national qualification and certification scheme for NDT personnel in South Africa.The
SAIW certification dovetails with the South African National Accreditation System and the ISO 17024-accredited personnel certification. Both the SAQCC and the SAIW certification are recognised internationally. Saint and SAIW certification are signatories to the ICNDT Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) Schedule 1 and, to this end, support the global harmonisation of NDT qualification and certification under ISO 9712. Therefore, personnel certificates issued by internationally accredited ISO 9712 personnel certification bodies and signatories to the ICNDT MRA Schedule 2 are also in compliance with the first step towards professional designation.
Company-Specific Mentoring and Authorisation
The second step refers to company-specific mentoring based on the company-specific written practice and quality document, which is controlled by the Company Responsible Level 3.
This industrial learnership programme is defined by the Saint professional body and requires that the Company Responsible Level 3 be registered as a professionally designated technologist with the professional body, based on his or her qualifications, as well as an industrial mentoring facilitator, based on the relevant written practice and related documentation and records audited and approved by the professional body.
While the classroom mentoring aspects may be subcontracted, it is pertinent that training should be based on company-specific documents or requirements and should be authorised by the Company Responsible Level 3.
Following the completion of the learnership programme, the apprentice or trainee (applicable for qualification levels 1, 2 or 3) will be assessed by the Responsible Level 3, based on the general and specific theory obtained during the in-house mentoring programme, as well as the technique- specific practical skills mastered under the supervision of the Responsible Level 3.
Since Company Responsible Level 3s will not be able to assess themselves, in order to be company-authorised, alternative American Society for Nondestructive Testing qualifications can be used to replace the requirement for in-house authorisation assessment of Level 3s (or even Level 2 personnel involved in the company mentoring process and defined in the written practice).
Successful completion of the company assessment (70% or higher for each component and an average of 80% or above for combined components) results in the company’s Responsible Level 3 issuing a company authorisation, which is a prerequisite for personnel certification.
Company authorisation is valid for a period as stipulated within the written practice and must not exceed five years.
End-User Performance Assessment and Approval
The third and last step towards professional designation is based on a practical skills assessment on components typically relevant to the various end-user sites. While the practical training, mentoring and examination and assessment described in Steps 1 and 2 can be based on general testing samples, practical assessment during the third step is based on geometrical configurations, material properties and fabricated orientation, as found on the various end-user sites.
To this end, samples to be tested must be sourced from identified end-users and controlled and maintained by an entity approved by the professional body. End-user requirements are stipulated and compliance is assessed by a professional body and end-user-approved service providers. If candidates are found to be noncompliant, then end-user approval will not be granted and the student will be required to attend a skills enhancement course prior to being reassessed. End-user approval is valid for two years or based on the minimum time interval of the combined end-user requirements.
Personnel will be able to conduct NDT in various sectors and in all Saint-registered end-user plants once the end-user approval has been obtained. Therefore, separate approval assessments are no longer required for different end-users, such as integrated energy and chemicals company Sasol or State-owned power utility Eskom.
The three steps mentioned above, as well as yearly continuous professional development (CPD) are managed by the Saint professional body for NDT, which is registered with the South African Qualifications Authority.
While professional designation is currently voluntary, it is anticipated that national statutory regulations will be adopted to mandate professional designation for all NDT personnel, whether national or international, who wish to perform NDT within the borders of South Africa.
“This harmonised approach complies with first-, second- and third-party conformity assessment schemes, as mandated in the relevant manufacturing codes, such as ISO or EN , and personnel obtaining and maintaining a professional designation will thus be suitably qualified and certified for performing NDT for statutory, insurance or contractual purposes,” concludes Jansen.