worker welding

Weld inspectors, especially those new to the trade, put a lot of emphasis on the equipment needed to do the job.

  • Flashlight
  • Mirror
  • High-low gauge
  • Pit gauge
  • Bridge camera
  • Borescope 

However, this isn’t the entire toolkit. A welding inspector must also know the applicable codes. They must learn about the project owners’ specifications. And they should carry a personal logbook to make notes about conversations and inspections.

The quality control profession is far from static. The need for quality control inspectors is increasing, and the field is growing. New job opportunities are opening up. With rising numbers of owner-users, manufacturers, and contractors. They learn that well-trained quality control inspectors impact the quality of a project.

Anyone interested in becoming an inspector should familiarize himself with the necessary tools. Merriam-Webster defines a tool as “Something used in operating or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession.”

When you ask people in the construction industry about inspection tools, common answers are: 

  • A flashlight
  • Mirror
  • High-low gauge
  • Pit gauge
  • Bridge cam
  • Borescope 

Often they leave out the most essential and critical tools: 

  • Codes
  • Owner specifications
  • Drawings
  • Bills of material
  • A personal logbook

As any welding inspector knows, having a good flashlight is essential. Especially when looking through a window left in an open butt joint to examine the internal of a root bead. Also, when used properly, a flashlight can help spot an undercut at the toe of a weld. A mirror is handy for a visual inspection of the internal bead of a pipe weld, test coupon, and any weld near an obstruction that prevents a direct view.

A pit gauge or a bridge cam is handy for measuring:

  • Pits in the wall of base material
  • Undercut
  • The amount of reinforcement of a weld

Borescopes are becoming more affordable and smaller in size. They are being used more frequently to do visual inspections where it is impossible to see with a mirror and a light.

These tools are helpful, but their usefulness is limited if the inspector isn’t familiar with the codes, specifications, and bill of materials.

Critical Tools

The most important tools are not physical tools but documentation and knowledge. The relevant documents provide recommended and required construction practices, describe the correct use of inspection instruments, and offer acceptance criteria for an inspector. Others are the construction codes and the owner’s specifications.

Codes 

Welds are engineered to meet various criteria depending on: 

  • Expected service life
  • Environment
  • Temperature
  • Strength
  • System cleanability

These are determined through codes written by entities such as: 

  • The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • The American Welding Society (AWS)
  • The American Petroleum Institute (API). 

Therefore, a welding inspector must have a good understanding and working knowledge of these codes.

Most projects must meet several codes and national standards. For example, a pharmaceutical plant may use ASME Biopharmaceutical Equipment Standard ASME B31.1, ASME B31.3, ASME Sec. I, Sec. V, Sec. VIII, Sec, IX; and AWS D1.1.

The inspector does not need to have all these codes memorized. but They must have a working knowledge of each of them. They should be able to focus on details about acceptable procedures for: 

  • Preparation
  • Welding conditions
  • Acceptance criteria

Owner’s Specifications

An owner-user often has more stringent specifications. Rather than supplementary accepted construction codes. Inspectors must read the owner’s specifications. This includes engineering drawings and bills of material. This is critical to ensure all job-, company-and site-specific needs are met. A copy of all specifications must be readily available to the inspector. It is a good practice for the inspector to note the owner’s specifications.

Personal Log

An inspector’s typical day is busy and involves examining weld parameters.

  • Weld joint fit-up
  • Internal root beads
  • Final welds
  • Hydrostatic test results

This is to name a few—and having many conversations. Therefore, the inspector should make comprehensive notes in a personal log. This is to keep the details straight for future reference. In addition, such a log can be invaluable for future reference, mainly if a dispute arises.

An Ounce of Prevention

Inspectors aren’t the only ones who need to be familiar with codes, specifications, and standards. Everyone involved in the project should know the codes that apply to the job, which ultimately prevents rejection and rework.

The cost of rework is summarized in this equation:

(Hc x 3) + (Co x 2) + (Mo x 3) + (T x 2) + (Ma x 2) + (Lt x 1) = C

Where:

Hc = Labor-hours of original work converted to cost

Co = Consumables for original work (e.g., electrodes and shielding gas)

Mo = Mobilization from ongoing work to rework

T = Required nondestructive examination of repair, including visual inspection

Ma = Material for original work and new material for rework

Lt = Lost scheduled time in labor hours, converted to cost

C = Total cost of repair or rework

Preventing rework is critical to keeping projects on budget and schedule.