QC gets QC’d

Well, I had been on a local construction project as a pipe welder for almost 2 weeks when I was FIRED!. What a bummer. Work was scheduled to go until the 22nd of Dec. It was for a bad weld is my understanding. I fully accept the responsibility for whatever the cause was but thought I would share some thoughts on what happened.  I hadn’t been on my tools much for the past 3-1/2 years but thought I was doing OK.

I had been on the job for about a week and was slowly getting back into welding daily.  during the 1st 7 work days, at no time did  anyone do any inspection on any completed welds, talked to me about requirements, provide a WPS, tell me of hold points or anything else. So I just went with the flow.  We were running some 2″ Schedule 40 SS running rainwater from a sump to another pipe. We were occasionally pulled off to do some 3″ Sch 10 vent line fab to assist the crew nearby.

The lack of QC involvement surprised me somewhat but I hadn’t been out in the field as a welder for a construction company in many years. On previous jobs I had worked as a welder, I remember seeing a QC inspector on almost a daily basis. Especially at the start of a job. I had heard stories of how particular they were about welding at this plant so I was a little concerned about my abilities vs their quality requirements.  I DO have the ability to make a bad weld!

As work went along,  I noticed some of the other welds being put up in the area where we were working. They were pretty bad. The guy was a tube welder and said he had a hard time walking the cup.  I was surprised nothing had been done to stop him because these welds were pretty rough on the workmanship side. But I was there as a welder and not an inspector so kept those thoughts at the level I was at.   I’m not here to slam anyone else’s work but more to indicate that as far a quality went, it appeared that not even code requirements were in play for acceptance criteria. Variations in bead width,  oxidation, etc…. are not mentioned in B31.3. but some welds exhibited underfill, undercut and a very inconsistent profile (UGLY). Now understand that  I am by no means a producer of Instagram worthy welds myself but some of what I saw was pretty rough. But “Rough” isn’t in the code!

I have some experience in QC but before I go any further,  let me make this point.  There is no correlation between being a good welder and being an inspector.  I am decent at both but by no means a standout. A LinkedIn article in process discusses this.

Last week on Monday or Tuesday,  the QC Manager for the company I’m welding for came by.  We had been there about a week at that time and welding daily. He wanted to see some welds. I had one pc fabricated that was only about 10 ft in length with 3 elbows and 2 slip-on flanges. It was one in which almost all the welds were better than when I started last week…..well all of them except ONE.  Everything else was in the rack. Probably 20-30 welds, maybe more.

We had one joint that drew quite a bit and I recapped it a few times to straighten it out. The last time I let it get quite tall and let it cool down thru break. After coming back from break,  it was straight and we went on to something else.   I didn’t wire brush it or grind the excess reinforcement off.  It WAS UGLY! Not like the others. Still had some color, consistent in appearance other than height, but it was something that “stood out” and needed fixed. We had a few other welds on that pc and it was installed at ground level so we would be making sure it all fit in the future and I would fix it then.

But that just happened to be the weld that the QC inspector looked at when he came out. We had it staged near the location for installing but hadn’t put it in place yet. When the QC inspector came up to our hooch asking to see some welds, I took him straight to that piece.  Heat tint of various shades (none gray or black), excess reinforcement,  variation in bead width were all in that one weld.  In general bad workmanship. After being told a few things that didn’t jive with my understanding of acceptance criteria and welding physics,  I interrupted some of his statements to express my view… which really didn’t matter cause he was the one in charge. That probably didn’t help me make ANY points.  It would have been a better turnout for me to keep my mouth shut I imagine. But the root cause was my weld and my weld only! Its possible they had some other reason to let me go and thought this would need the easiest. You never know as I’ve been in a few “behind closed doors” conversations and have left jobs because of them!

Anyway, here are some the “Code Requirements” I was told.

  • B31.3 doesn’t allow concavity (Yes it Does) See Table 341.3.2 Item K applies to all piping categories
  • B31.3 Requires heat tint to be removed (No it Doesn’t) It is not mentioned in acceptance criteria for a finished weld and is allowed to remain on a weld preparation, See Para 328.4.2 (1)a . As a matter of fact, even root oxidation is not in the code. It is something that should be addressed in project specifications (Never reviewed with me).

As a person that has made more than a few “bad welds” because of poor judgment, it never gets any easier to think about your failures.  Reputations are tarnished, stories modified, and rumors started. But GUESS WHAT, nobody can take away the fact that I can weld. And I can weld pretty good in many situations. Some companies will never get to see that. They will spend their days impressed with single process jackstand welders.

Had I been the inspector, I am pretty sure I would have looked at my other welds to make sure there wasn’t a gross problem and if not, allowed me to carry on and keep a close eye. If the other welds were typical of what was observed, I would have “sent me home” at that minute and walked down all of the welds made. That way, there was no concern about any future “bad welds” being made.  But it wasn’t my playground.

I just thought this would be worth sharing and some welders may very well get a kick out of me being “looked out” since I am a welding inspector AND instructor!

Maybe when he told me he had a copy of the code in the truck we could look at, I shouldn’t have told him I had one too. Overall, an interesting learning experience that lets me know that some companies may appear knowledgeable and professional on the outside but may be slightly different on the inside. Or maybe, they thought the same about me! Or maybe I shouldn’t have told the guy at when I tested that he was using the wrong male die radius for a 2″ Scheule 80 pipe!

Understand that this is not about the company being bad to work for. I would recommend them to any pipe welder. It’s about work relationships, communication, and knowing when to shut up!

One of my 3″ Schedule 10 welds at the referenced project.
6G Super Coupon, GTAW all the way out. One test I took to get hired!
SMAW Super coupon I welded for the same company. Some other welders on-site didn’t pass the SMAW test.
A recent jackstand weld performed for a local engineering company contract.


4 thoughts on “QC gets QC’d”

    1. Well Scott, I really didn’t learn anything that would make me change much in the future.

      With the same situation again, occuring the same way, I would would probably do it all the same, not because it’s right, just because there has been no paradigm shift in my thoughts about how I work and speak. Nor is there any reason for such. However for others, it may provide some insight on how things work sometimes.
      I hope all is going well for you Scott!

  1. Probably a College Puke CWI who only knows what welds are supposed to look like from pictures in books. I have been ready to do the CWI showdown a few times reporting inspectors using criteria other than the code.

    1. I’m sure he was just doing what he thought he needed to. It just makes me wonder “WHY” he thought he was doing what was needed. Maybe he thought that I as a CWI should do better. Who knows!

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