The American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) serves many functions in the world of NDT. A major one is to help companies make sure the NDT personnel they hire have the appropriate skills to get the job done safely and correctly.
One of the ways ASNT facilitates this is through their Standards and Recommended Practices. These are a series of guidelines that are developed in conjunction with the top NDT experts and business leaders from all over the country.
ASNT’s standards are meant to support the needs of industries and governments when it comes to qualifying and certifying NDT personnel, and one such document is SNT-TC-1A.
We’ll explain the basics of this important industry guideline and what you need to know about it if you hope to get a job in nondestructive testing.
SNT-TC-1A deals with personnel qualification and certification in nondestructive testing. In layman’s terms, this standard lays out guidelines companies or organizations can use to develop their own in-house programs for qualifying and certifying NDT staff.
Why would a company want to use an in-house qualification program as opposed to a central certification system facilitated by a third-party group like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)?
Developing an in-house program, also known as an employer-based certification system, allows organizations to qualify personnel in the specific context of their own standards and practices, using the test methods or techniques that are directly relevant to the company’s operations.
In other words, the certification system is tailored to meet the company’s needs rather than a more generic scope of needs.
In such programs, each employer is responsible for the certification of their own NDT personnel. To ensure that these programs are standardized from employer to employer, ASNT developed the SNT-TC-1A.
It provides the general framework for a qualification and certification program as well as the recommended education, practical experience and training requirements for the various nondestructive test methods.
After developing their internal program, employers incorporate it into their written practice and it becomes the official NDT certification requirement for that company.
SNT-TC-1A began as a set of tentative guidelines developed in the 1960’s by the technical council of the Society for Nondestructive Testing (the previous name of ASNT). In 1964, ‘Recommended Practice No. SNT-TC-1A’ was officially published in the organization’s journal, Materials Evaluation. Two years later, it became available as a five-document set or as individual supplements covering electromagnetic testing, radiographic testing, magnetic particle testing, liquid penetrant testing, and ultrasonic testing.
Now updated annually, SNT-TC-1A is the general format upon which almost all other NDT certification standards in use today are based. The guidelines are reviewed every five years.
Now that you understand the purpose of SNT-TC-1A, you’re probably wondering about its contents. Here’s an overview of what the standard recommends for employers when qualifying NDT personnel.
The employer must develop a written practice for the qualification and certification of nondestructive examination personnel. The written practice should cover NDT methods, techniques, levels of qualification and responsibilities assigned to each level. The written practice is key because it’s the primary document that governs how that organization ensures the integrity of its NDT staff.
The employer must verify that the candidate has met the required education, training, and practical experience criteria for the specific method in which they’re getting certified. For the training and education portion, the employer can either provide it or verify that it was completed elsewhere. SNT-TC-1A provides specific recommendations for the number of hours to be required for each testing method.
The candidate must be tested to verify that they have the proper knowledge and skills required for certification. The recommended testing process assesses four components: general knowledge of the testing method, specific knowledge of the testing method as it applies to the company’s product or systems, practical application of the testing method (i.e. a hands-on test) and vision acuity via an eye test.
SNT-TC-1A lays out three levels of qualification, each with increasing levels of skill, job duties and responsibilities. The levels are as follows:
Level I: Personnel are qualified to perform specific calibrations, examinations and evaluations to determine acceptance or rejection via express written instructions.
Level II: Personnel are qualified to set up and calibrate equipment, interpret and evaluate inspection results in keeping with the pertinent codes and standards, prepare written instructions and provide on-the-job training to Level I personnel. Level II personnel should be thoroughly familiar with the scope and limitations of the applicable testing methods.
Level III: Personnel are qualified to establish techniques, interpret code, design test methods and techniques to be used, and train and qualify Level I and II technicians. Further, Level III technicians should have sufficient practical background in the applicable materials, fabrication, and product technology to be able to assist in establishing acceptance criteria when none are otherwise available.
Level III technicians administer and grade the exams of the levels beneath them. Level III examination can either be completed internally or outsourced to an independent agency.
The standard also makes reference to the designation of ‘trainee,’ which is someone who is in the process of being trained and qualified and has not yet reached any of the above certification levels.
To advance from one level to the next, SNT-TC-1A outlines a recommended level of education, experience, training combined with passing scores on a qualifying exam. As of 2006, all levels must get re-certified every four years.
Since SNT-TC-1A is an employer based certification system, your certifications are only valid for as long as you’re with that company. If you leave the company, they’ll be terminated, and if you switch to a new job, you’ll need to get re-certified under that employer’s qualification system.
SNT-TC-1A is important to understand if you’re looking to get hired in a nondestructive testing role, since most companies require ASNT or other certification. NDT personnel should welcome SNT-TC-1A because it allows them to demonstrate their proficiency and set themselves apart from other, less qualified candidates.
SNT-TC-1A also brings a number of benefits to the industry as a whole. Firstly, it requires employers to take a close look at their criteria for qualifying NDT staff and deciding how thoroughly their personnel will be examined.
Because SNT-TC-1A is not a mandatory requirement, there are no “auditors” or other ASNT representatives checking how well a company’s written practice complies. It’s self-administered. Thus, you can learn a lot about the values of an organization from the thoroughness of their written practice regarding certification.
It also holds employers accountable for prioritizing proper training. NDT is a field that necessities ongoing learning, and a formal certification structure ensures that continued education is upheld and prioritized.
Various industry leaders agree that training programs bolster morale and motivate the workforce while positively impacting the company’s bottom line, and SNT-TC-1A helps facilitate such a culture of ongoing employee development.
Finally, compliance with SNT-TC-1A demonstrates a company’s commitment to their employees’ future. Conducting in-house certification isn’t cheap or easy, so when employers opt to certify their own personnel, it indicates an investment in their long-term tenure with the company. It also helps advance the employee’s future career prospects in the industry.
SNT-TC-1A isn’t just a box to be checked; rather, it’s a guideline that’s indicative of an industry committed to accuracy and precision, proficiency and safety, and as such is a practice NDT professionals should embrace.
The full text of SNT-TC-1A is available for purchase through ASNT.
Also available is the organization’s official response to a series of inquiries on the guidelines via an interpretation panel. Because SNT-TC-1A are recommended practice rather than a mandate, an employer can modify these guidelines to suit their needs.
Of course, this must be done within reason. To help guide companies in this area, ASNT offers a set of interpretation guidelines.
The latest iteration of the interpretation guidelines covers inquiries submitted from 1976 through 2019 and is also available for purchase through ASNT. In addition to the panel’s responses to inquiries, the text also contains full instructions for companies wishing to submit their own inquiry.
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