The Installation and Fabrication Plastics Pipe Association (IFPA), a subsidiary of the local representative body of the plastic pipes industry, South African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association (Sappma), together with umbrella body for the local plastics industry Plastics SA, has implemented a number of thorough quality checks that prospective members of the IFPA must undergo in order to join the association. In doing so, it aims to ensure that quality standards are raised and maintained in the plastic welding industry.
“Belonging to an association like the IFPA is a way of differentiating the responsible players in the field from those who are reckless about quality and ethics. It also unlocks substantial benefits to its members, such as including them on an approved, recommended suppliers list – which is underwritten by Sappma pipe manufacturers and made available to major customers and consulting engineers – increased marketing exposure through publicity and marketing campaigns and the opportunity to be part of a reputable, regulated association,” says IFPA chairperson Mike Smart.
IFPA and Plastics SA have devised a welding training curriculum, which companies desiring to become a member of the IFPA are required to complete. The curriculum requires that a three-day course, comprising both theoretical and practical modules that must be passed, be attended, and a workshop experience assessment workbook of adequate standard be submitted within two weeks. Once completed, candidates are awarded a certificate of competence that will enable their details to be captured on the industry database.
“The objective of the course is to facilitate the informed assessment of thermoplastic welding through the transfer of skills,” explains Smart.
The IFPA is also able to trace a welder to every weld he or she has ever done through the use of a welder identification system that was implemented by the IFPA and Plastics SA six years ago. Because of their compliance with this system, IFPA members only have to recertify their welders with Plastics SA once every three years, while nonmembers are required to certify their welders yearly.
Welders are assigned unique numbers by their organisation, which, in turn, has a unique IFPA membership number. Both these numbers appear on every weld completed by the organisation, together with the IFPA logo, thereby providing secure and irrefutable traceability for quality control. These are stamped on using a stamp made of hardened steel and can be used next to a weld if the weld surface is too small.
“Members are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the stamps made for their welders are kept up to date by verifying the specific discipline that the welder has been qualified for and controlling employee activities such as moonlighting,” says Smart.
Members of the IFPA are also required to ensure that their equipment and processes conform to the applicable standard for their welding operation, in accordance with the SANS 1671 series of standards for machines and equipment and the SANS 102668 series of standards for welding processes. These requirements are checked, inter alia, during the association’s regular audits – another requirement of IFPA membership.
Smart warns that IFPA members are, moreover, made aware that they may require further approval before work starts on a project conforming to SANS 10269 (welding of thermoplastics – testing and approval of welders) and SANS 10270 (welding of thermoplastics – approval of welding procedures and welds).
For approval, each process is witnessed by either an inspector certified by Plastics SA as competent in thermoplastic welding inspection or by an approved inspection authority who certifies conformance on completion and in keeping with the general improvement of industry standards.
“Memberships is, moreover, dependent on passing an audit check of the company’s systems and standards, and the payment of the specified membership fee. In addition, a set code of conduct needs to be signed by the managing director of the business,” adds Smart.