Testing changes leave Cowichan Valley welder high and dry

It may take some time before the kinks are ironed out of a new testing regime for welders that is causing concern

It may take some time before the kinks are ironed out of a new testing regime for welders that is causing concern for at least one Valley worker.

Dave Liddle is a welder trying to update some of his structural welding tickets.

“I’m frustrated. On June 17, I was booked in at Camosun [College in Victoria]. Fortunately I got some work so I called to cancel and reschedule those tests and the instructor said, simply call back when you’re not working and we’ll get you in. I’m supposed to re-test every two years for that certification. It was up in May, so I have a three-month grace period which is finished in August.”

The single father discovered, however, that it might not be so easy to complete his tests in time. While picking up his son at a welding camp at VIU’s Duncan campus, Liddle decided to ask if he could get his re-rests done there instead.

What he discovered was that the colleges in Camosun, VIU’s Nanaimo campus and the CWB have not agreed on how to deal with the new costs of testing.

“The colleges don’t want to pay for it, and CWB doesn’t want to pay for it. Now they’re trying to put the dime on the employer,” he said.

Liddle, like many welders, works for a variety of employers, so he can’t just go to one.

The thought of having to come up with ferry charges, a hotel and a $1,500 testing fee if he has to travel to Vancouver is adding to his frustration.

Hearing that the CWB is going to be training and sending out an inspector is not helpful either, Liddle said.

“It’ll be six weeks before he’s ready and I don’t see how one guy could do it. Can you imagine how many people will be on that waiting list before the ball even gets rolling? In the best case, it would be two months. But the list is going to get huge and nobody seems to care. This is my hard luck story, but I’m not the only one. I’m on two waiting lists now. It’s summertime and everybody’s taking holidays.”

However, according to the Canadian Welding Board’s technical director, Darcy Yantz, Liddle is looking at the situation from the wrong side: certification is not for him, it goes to the company.

The CWB certifies companies that are working on load-bearing structures, and companies have some major requirements to meet before they are certified.

“These include having approved welding procedures, adequate supervision and qualified welders,” he said. “It’s the company’s responsibility to ensure the welders are qualified for the type of welding that’s being done.”

But a lot of welders can work for up to 10 signatory companies throughout the year.

“We have agreements with union halls and also with test centres like Camosun College in Victoria and VIU in Nanaimo and VIU in Duncan, so welders like Dave can go there and take their tests. But we don’t certify welders. The welders are qualified according to CSA Standards. It’s a transferable qualification but it says right on the top of the ticket, ‘Valid only while in the employ of a certified company’ so it’s not an individual qualification at all,” Yantz said.

That still leaves Liddle with a number of options, according to Yantz. He can pay for his own individual testing, get on a list to test with a group of other individuals, get a company he works for to test him, or even form his own company and get his testing done that way.

But testing at Camosun and VIU’s Nanaimo campus is changing.

“Camosun is still doing tests but I think they are going to group it into larger sessions rather than do it every day,” Yantz said. “They’ve updated their testing agreement. Everybody had to by the end of June.

“The only difference now is that when they are going to test anybody, they are going to call for a CWB employee to come and witness and evaluate the welder,” Yantz said, something the VIU has always done anyway.

Colleges are trying to decide how best to schedule their testing dates and deal with the fees to keep their costs down, he said.

“The best way for welders like Dave is to deal with the certified companies that pay an annual fee that covers the witnessing of welder tests. Then he’s not out of pocket for anything. The colleges are not going to test every day like they have in the past. But, if the shipyard sends 20 welders to Camosun we’re going to go there and the cost of our hourly fees and travel will be split between 20 welders.”

Individual welders could consider incorporating as companies themselves.

“There are a lot of welding trucks, with single-owner operators, that operate as certified entities. I’m trying to save Dave some money here. If he wants to work all by himself, directly for a general contractor, not for a welding fabricator or company, he should get certified. Then we’ll go right to his backyard and test him. And there’s no extra charge because that’s part of the annual fees [his company will pay] the CWB,” Yantz said.