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A safety net when all else fails

41114 Assistant Welder training and certification concerns

January 2011 in Network Rail and Suppliers

tagged Rules and procedures Training and briefing Not Specified

The training for Assistant Welders and the associated certification is a concern for one reporter. The reporter is aware that currently Assistant Welders, unlike fully qualified Welders, do not undergo recertification every two years as their competencies do not expire. The concern is that the staff that become Assistant Welders following an intensive three week course, do not undergo any further training to become Welders, even though they undertake work that involves using plant and dangerous gases. They are able to do this, according to the reporter, because the competencies they are given when they become Assistant Welders do not have an expiry date and it is therefore perceived by staff to be valid for ninety nine years. The reporter does not feel that this is acceptable.

Handbook NR/L2/TRK/0032 states that Welders should attend training every two years to be re-certificated. The rules also state that if Welders do not partake in welding activities for more than three months, that they should not be able to retain their welding competencies.

The reporter believes that Welding Assistants are an exception to this rule, which is seen to be unsafe as they could be injured when handling the dangerous gases if they do not have the training required to do this.
Could Network Rail please:

  • Carry out a check to ensure that all Assistant Welders have received the required training and have the correct competencies to be able to handle plant and dangerous gases?
  • Explain why the Assistant Welders do not have to undergo recertification training every two years?
  • Explain why the competencies held by Assistant Welders do not have an expiry date on them?

Response from Network Rail

Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bringing their concerns to our attention.

Carry out a check to make sure that all Assistant Welders have received the required training and have the correct competencies to be able to handle plant and dangerous gases?

The Assistant Welder training course covers the items of portable plant relevant to the duties of an Assistant Welder. These are: welding tents, grinders, weld trimmers, disc cutters, Geismar light weight stressing equipment, generators, and needle guns. All Assistant Welders therefore have been trained on the items of portable plant they require to undertake their role. Once released, NR/L2/CTM/222 will specify that the Assistant Welder is required to take an oxy-fuel gas safety paper every two years in addition to the two-yearly powered plant recertification.

Explain why the Assistant Welders do not have to undergo recertification training every two years?

It is a requirement for any individuals undertaking the duties of an Assistant Welder to hold a valid Sentinel card showing the Assistant Welder competence. In order to be awarded the Sentinel Assistant Welder competence, an individual must have attended the Assistant Welder training course. We can therefore be assured that all Assistant Welders have attended the required training. However it is worth noting that Assistant Welders only actually assist in the activity, having no direct responsibility for the process and only working under the direct supervision of the Welder. Therefore the Welder supervising the activity is responsible for making sure it is done safely and effectively and as such will hold a recertifiable competence to demonstrate the ability to do this.

Explain why the competencies held by assistant welders do not have an expiry date on them?

Before 9 August 2010, the portable plant competences were not awarded to individuals upon successful completion of the Assistant Welder training course. As of 9 August 2010 and in line with the development of a Competence Standard for Welding (ref number NR/L2/CTM/222) due for publication in December 2010, these portable plant competences have now been linked to the Assistant Welder training course and are being awarded to all individuals who successfully complete this course. These portable plant competences all have expiry dates associated to them, which require individuals to attend recertification training on a periodic basis in order to maintain competence. This provides ongoing assurance that Assistant Welders remain competent in the items of portable plant required for them to undertake their duties. All individuals who attended the Assistant Welder training course before 9 August 2010 shall have their competence records backdated to include the portable plant competences which are still valid. Any Assistant Welders who attended training too long ago (i.e. longer than the recertification frequency of the portable plant competences) shall be required to attend retraining to gain the portable plant competences they require.

 

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