Restricted-Access Welder Performance Qualification

Incorporating special welder test requirements at the beginning of projects could have significant advantages.

AWS Publications | March 17, 2023 | Inspection
Welding Digest ►  Restricted-Access Welder Performance Qualification

Incorporating special welder test requirements at the beginning of projects could have significant advantages.

It’s well known that work such as fired heater and boiler fabrication requires high-quality welds. Unless you are fortunate enough to be already utilizing a company that specializes in boiler or furnace fabrication or happen to have highly talented welders on the job, restricted-access performance testing is seldom thought about until the project is over budget and behind schedule because of weld rework.


Decisions and Implications

A significant challenge could be convincing management that the added upfront cost outweighs the high potential for rework and project delays. Recognizing and adding the requirement for restricted-access welder qualifications after the job is underway can jeopardize a project. 

Whether it’s just adding a restriction plate to the test coupon or doing a production weld mockup, those requirements take a much higher level of skill than passing a standard 6G pipe qualification test. As a result, you may lose a large percentage of your welding staff because they won’t pass the test, not to mention the added expense and disruption of pulling personnel off production work to do more qualification testing and stressing about how much trouble the project is in. 

Or you can just leave things alone, roll the dice, and go with whatever you have. Projects still get done using this approach, but usually with more rework than expected and much unplanned overtime to make mechanical completion dates. If you happen to be the fabricator, your profit and reputation for quality could disappear, and you may even lose customers.


Successful Implementation

The industry has had provisions for restricted-access or special-position welder performance qualification testing for years, so it’s not a new concept. However, most industry codes and standards don’t provide much guidance other than recognizing it. 

For example, in the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section IX, Welding, Brazing, and Fusing Qualifications, restricted access or special-position welder performance qualification testing is defined as special positions, but nothing else is specified other than a few minor variables. It’s left up to the manufacturer or author of the specification to determine the test coupon configuration and welding parameter requirements.  

To be successful, only individuals with the proper technical knowledge and practical experience should be involved with designing and specifying test requirements. Having this experience is essential for individuals overseeing test activities and having responsibility for accepting the completed test coupons. This is an advanced work activity that is not for novices.



Incorporating special welder test requirements into project specifications will add upfront costs, and the pool of qualified welders will be much smaller, but the payoff will be big — the savings from having low rework costs and keeping your reputation for high quality. This is something to consider for your next project that involves restricted access weld joints. 

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This article was written by Chuck Mielke, Certified Welding Inspector and owner of Mechanical Integrity Inspection and Consulting LLC, Manasquan, N.J., for the American Welding Society.