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Standards - application standards, codes of practice and quality levels


Job Knowledge 38

Production at Dennis vehicle manufacturers
Production at Dennis vehicle manufacturers

Application standards and codes of practice ensure that a structure or component will have an acceptable level of quality and be fit for the intended purpose.

In this document, the requirements for standards on welding procedure and welder qualification are explained together with the quality levels for imperfections.

Application standards and codes

There are essentially three types of standards which can be referenced in fabrication:

  • Application and design
  • Specification and qualification of welding procedures
  • Qualification of welders

There are also specific standards covering material specifications, consumables, welding equipment and health and safety. British Standards are used to specify the requirements, for example, in approving a welding procedure, they are not a legal requirement but may be cited by the Regulatory Authority as a means of satisfying the law. Health and Safety guidance documents and codes of practice may also recommend standards.

Codes of practice differ from standards in that they are intended to give recommendations and guidance, for example, on the validation of power sources for welding. It is not intended that they should be used as a mandatory, or contractual documents.

Most fabricators will be working to one of the following:

  • Company or industry specific standards
  • National standards 'BS' (British Standard)
  • European standards 'BS EN' (British Standard European Standard)
  • International standards ‘BS EN ISO’ (International Standards Organisation)
  • US standards published by AWS (American Welding Society) and ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers)

Examples of application standards and related welding procedure and welder/welding operator qualification standards are listed in Table 1.

Table 1 Examples of application codes and standards and related welding procedure, welder and welding operator approval standards

    Welding standard
ApplicationApplication standardProcedure qualificationWelder qualification
Pressure Vessels PD 5500
BS EN 13445 series
ASME B&PV Section III-NB (Nuclear)
BS EN ISO 15614
ASME B&PV Section IX
BS EN 287
BS EN ISO 9606
ASME B&PV Section IX
Process Pipework BS 2633
BS 4677

BS EN ISO 15614

ASME B&PV Section IX

BS EN 287 (superseded)
BS EN ISO 9606 series
Structural Fabrication AWS D1.1
AWS D1.2
AWS D1.6
BS EN 1011 and ISO/TR 17671 (both series)
BS EN 1991-
AWS D1.1
AWS D1.2
AWS D1.6
BS EN ISO 15614-1
BS EN ISO 15614-2
AWS D1.1
AWS D1.2
BS EN ISO 9606-1
BS EN ISO 9606-2
Storage Tanks BS EN 14015
BS EN 12285
API 620/650
BS EN ISO 15614-1, -2
BS EN ISO 9606-1, 2

Note 1: Reference should be made to the application codes/standards for any additional requirements to those specified in BS EN ISO 15614, BS EN ISO 9606 and ASME IX.

Note 2: for the current status of BS EN 287-1, see

Note 3: Compliance with the BS EN 13445 series can be used to demonstrate compliance with the Pressure Equipment Directive (PED). Other standards are also acceptable for compliance with the PED, but only provided they take into account the Essential Safety Requirements stated in the PED (ESRs).

Qualification of welding procedures and welders

An application standard or code of practice will include requirements or guidelines on material, design of joint, welding process, welding procedure, welder qualification and inspection or may invoke other standards, for example for welding procedure and welder approval tests. The manufacturer will normally be required to qualify the welding procedure and welder qualification. The difference between a welding procedure and a welder qualification test is as follows:

  • The welding procedure qualification test is carried out by a competent welder and the quality of the weld is assessed using non-destructive and mechanical testing techniques. The intention is to demonstrate that the proposed welding procedure will produce a welded joint which will satisfy the specified requirements of weld quality and mechanical properties.
  • The welder qualification test examines a welder's skill and ability in producing a satisfactory test weld. The test may be performed with or without a qualified welding procedure (note, without an approved welding procedure the welding parameters must be recorded).

The requirements for approvals are determined by the relevant application standard or as a condition of contract (Table 1).

The BS ISO EN 9606 series and ASME Section IX would be appropriate for welders on high quality work such as pressure vessels, power and process piping and offshore structures and other products where the consequences of failure, stress levels and complexity mean that a high level of welded joint integrity is essential. In less demanding situations, such as small to medium building frames and general light structural and non- structural work, a qualified welding procedure may not be necessary. but to ensure an adequate level of skill, it is recommended that the welder be qualified to a less stringent standard e.g. BS 4872.

'Coded welder' is often used to denote a qualified welder but the term is not recognised in any of the standards. However, it is used in the workplace to describe those welders whose skill and technical competence have been qualified to the requirements of an appropriate standard.

Quality Acceptance Levels for Welding Procedure and Welder Approval Tests

When welding to application standards and codes, consideration must be given to the imperfection acceptance criteria which must be satisfied. Some standards contain an appropriate section relating to the acceptance levels while others make use of a separate standard. For example, in welding procedure and welder qualification tests to BS EN ISO 15614-1 and BS EN ISO 9606-1, respectively, reference is made to BS EN ISO 5817. It is important to note that the application standard may specify more stringent imperfection acceptance levels and/or require additional tests to be carried out as part of the welding procedure approval test. For example, for joints which must operate at high temperatures, elevated temperature tensile test may be required whereas for low temperature applications, impact or CTOD tests may be specified.

Guidance on permissible levels of imperfections in arc welded joints in steel are given in BS EN ISO 5817. Production quality, but not fitness-for-purpose, is defined in terms of three levels of quality for imperfections:

  • Moderate - Level D
  • Intermediate- Level C
  • Stringent - Level B

Note: the terms ‘moderate’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘stringent’ are not used in the standard, but represent the opinion of the authors.

The standard applies to most arc welding processes and covers imperfections such as cracks, porosity, inclusions, poor bead geometry, lack of penetration and misalignment.

As the quality levels are related to the types of welded joint and not to a particular component, they can be applied to most applications for procedure and welder qualification. The quality levels which are the most appropriate for production joints will be determined by the relevant application standard which may cover design considerations, mode of stressing (e.g. static, dynamic), service conditions (e.g. temperature, environment) and consequences of failure.

When working to ISO 15614-1, the welding procedure, will be qualified if the imperfections in the test piece are within the specified limits of Level B except for excess weld metal, excess convexity, excess throat thickness and excess penetration, undercut and incorect weld toe type imperfections when Level C will apply. Different acceptance levels also apply when welders are qualified to ISO 9606-1, as defined in the standard.

Guidance levels for aluminium joints are given in BS EN ISO 10042.

For the American standards ASME Section IX and AWS D1.1, the acceptance levels are contained in the standard. Application codes may specify more stringent imperfection acceptance levels and/or additional tests.

Relevant Standards

  • American Welding Society, Structural Welding Code, AWS D1.1 
  • ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section IX: Welding Qualifications
  • BS 4872 Approval Testing of Welders when Welding Procedure Approval is not Required
  • BS EN ISO 9606-1:2017
  • Qualification testing of welders. Fusion welding. Part 1: Steels
  • BS EN ISO 9606-2:2004 Qualification test of welders. Fusion welding - Part 2: aluminium and aluminium alloys.
  • BS EN ISO 15614-1:2017 Specification and qualification of welding procedures for metallic materials. Welding procedure test.
  • BS EN ISO 5817:2014 Welding - fusion-welded joints in steel, nickel, titanium and their alloys (beam welding excluded) - Quality levels for imperfections
  • BS EN ISO 10042:2018 Welding - Arc welded joints in aluminium and its alloys - Quality levels for imperfections

Bill Lucas prepared the information in this article in collaboration with Oliver Smith, John Weston and Gene Mathers. The article was update by Marcello Consonni in September 2018

This Job Knowledge article was originally published in Connect, November/December 1998. It has been updated so the web page no longer reflects exactly the printed version.

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