In 1998 it was recognised within the UK Geomembrane industry that there was a great deal of variation in the quality of welding personnel on landfill sites. Some companies had very good in-house training schemes while others provided very little formal training or guidance. For this reason, a number of the main processors in the industry got together to form the British Geomembrane Association (BGA) and began talks with TWI, which had set up the first national training and certification scheme for plastics welders in the fabrication industry two years previously.
By 2000, geomembrane welding had been incorporated into TWI's CSWIP certification scheme for plastics welders and a comprehensive course manual had been prepared jointly by the BGA and TWI.
Initial uptake was slow, with only a handful of welders taking the examinations in the first two years. The main reason for this was that it was not being specified in contracts. Realising this, TWI and the BGA began talks with the Environment Agency, and by 2002 had persuaded them to specify that, on all landfill sites in the UK, at least one crew member must have a CSWIP certificate.
The CSWIP scheme, which follows the British Standard BS EN 13067, requires that a welder must have at least two years industrial experience in the relevant welding technique(s) before they can take the examination. The examination package is run over two days, and the examination itself, which takes place on the second day, is divided into theoretical and practical tests. The candidate must pass both to be awarded a certificate, achieving at least 80% in a 20 multiple-choice paper and producing a welded test piece with minimum required properties.
One of the current major concerns within the UK Geomembrane industry is the shortage of experienced welders. In response to this, in 2003 TWI set up a new Entry Level certification scheme for geomembrane welders, which does not require previous welding experience. The Entry Level examination tests the practical skill of the welder and successful candidates are awarded a CSWIP Entry Level certificate. After two years industrial experience they then become eligible to take the full examination, in accordance with BS EN 13067.
The Environment Agency has now agreed to specify that, from April 2004, on all landfill sites in the UK, at least two crew members must be accredited to BS EN 13067 and all other crew members (except for a maximum of one trainee) must be accredited to the CSWIP Entry Level.
In 2003, 98 geomembrane welders from all of the main UK geomembrane companies took the CSWIP examination.
Although it has taken TWI and the BGA many hundreds of man-hours, over four years, to develop the CSWIP certification scheme for geomembrane welders, the owners of all landfill sites in the UK can now be totally confident that the welding carried out on their sites is of a consistently high quality.
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