AWS CWIs … Who needs ‘em?
I am very interested in a research article that discusses the industry’s perception and the overall value of the AWS certified welding inspector (CWI) certification. Many organizations have
established training and certification programs internally and apply job scope-specific training
to inspectors. It seems to me that the AWS CWI training and exam are too general and wide-ranging. What is your opinion on this?
Although most codes accept the credentials of
a CWI for visual inspection of welds, they don’t
require that the inspector be a CWI. What they do
require is that your inspectors be qualified, and for
that qualification to be documented. Those are two
very important requirements—qualified and documented—that I typically find are not being followed
while I’m conducting fabricator and manufacturer
audits with in-house qualified inspectors.
In your letter you state, “Many organizations have
established training and certification programs internally.” Well, I’ve worked for many manufacturers and
have developed those exact programs, but each
program ensured that my inspectors were qualified
and that qualification was documented.
It is common in industry today to make the claim
that the welder is your first inspector. That’s a great
approach, but again, to make that claim, your welders would be required to be qualified as inspectors
(don’t confuse this with qualified as welders) and
their qualifications would need to be documented.
The AWS B5.1, Specification for the Qualification
of Welding Inspectors, is a great reference to help
you develop that training and documentation. It is
also a terrific guide for developing a visual welding
inspector program. Programs developed to AWS
B5.1 by a knowledgeable welding inspector/engi-
neer would typically be accepted by your customers
and governing agencies. I have often found it easier
to evaluate employees and determine which inspec-
tors may be ready to take the next step to certifi-
cation once I’ve developed an in-house inspector
It is typically your customers or governing agencies that put the requirement in contract documents
that visual welding inspectors shall be AWS CWIs
(meaning certified to AWS QC1, Standard for AWS
Certification of Welding Inspectors). If it is specified
in contract documents, there’s no wiggle room for
alternative qualification programs.
From my own experience, walking onto a project
overseen by an AWS CWI gives me confidence that
the inspector has a well-rounded background in different areas, including process, code requirements,
inspection techniques, and metallurgy.
When I’m asked to be a third-party inspector in
a manufacturing environment where inspectors are
trained in-house, I tend to ask a series of questions
that help me to evaluate their qualifications. I want
to feel confident that they understand the requirements and the acceptance criteria for the weldments
they inspect. That is a bad time to find out they
don’t, and I’ll always ask to see their documentation.
I understand why some folks believe that certification to AWS QC1 (AWS CWI) can, at times, be
overkill. When an alternative program is developed,
you must ensure that it is done so by an individual
with a well-rounded understanding of welding
requirements—the kind of understanding you’d typically find in a CWI.
Paul Cameron, CWI, is weld and NDT level II
inspector, Braun Intertec. He is also a member
of The WELDER’s Editorial Review Committee.