7 Aug 2016

Aust welding expert urges action on defective steel

11:54 am on 7 August 2016

A welding inspector turned whistleblower across the Tasman has got the Australian government's attention over defective steel imported from China.

Part of the silo near Griffith, New South Wales, that's riddled with bad and missing welds.

Part of the silo near Griffith, New South Wales, that's riddled with bad and missing welds. Photo: Supplied

The inspector anonymously leaked his report about a big grain silo near Griffith, New South Wales, which had been imported from China and erected, despite being riddled with missing and undersized welds, gouges and cracking.

The report showed the welds failing in all 10 categories listed.

Australian Welding Technology Institute chief executive Geoff Crittenden told RNZ News 85 percent of imported steel welding was substandard and it was probably the same in New Zealand.

He is urging Canberra to bring in a new regime that demands independent certification of welding for all high-risk projects.

Mr Crittenden said despite the silo being substandard, there was no law preventing it being erected.

"One day somebody's going to nudge it and the whole thing's going to come tumbling down," he told RNZ News. "And the silo's not the worst case of this we've got over here.

"People in Australia don't realise that there's no regulation to protect the Australian community. We have standards, but we don't have any way of enforcing those standards."

The country's top steel research body HERA and NZ lab testing authority IANZ have both warned of growing numbers of wrong or faked steel test certificates from Asia, but the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment said it had no "evidence of specific examples of problems" with steel.

Mr Crittenden said he was urging Canberra to bring in a two-tier certification regime: mandatory independent certification for welds on all high-risk projects; self-certification for low-risk projects.

"I've had the minister on the phone to me at 9.30 at night, because now this example has really brought it home to people and we are going to start to see some action done over here."

The Australian Steel Institute and Welding Institute together have three case studies showing defective welding on bridges in New South Wales.

In one of these, at Penrith, the Vietnamese fabricators had filled the steel tubes with water to bring it up to the weight of standard steel.

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