How The Welding Industry Has Changed In Victoria & Tasmania

Article By: Ian Raymond

We Asked Ian Raymond, AWS Sales Manager For Victoria And Tasmania, How He Feels The Welding Industry Has Changed Over The Last 50 Years.



When Did You Start In The Welding Industry? 

I have worked in the welding industry for over 48 years commencing an apprenticeship at the age of sixteen as a boilermaker welder at Mount Lyell mine in Queenstown, Tasmania. I then moved into the food processing Industry as a fabrication and maintenance boilermaker welder at Simplot, located in Devonport, Tasmania. After eighteen years on the tools, I decided it was time for a change of career and commenced work as a Sales Representative with CIG now known as BOC, selling and demonstrating Welding machines, and industrial gases. In May 2003, I started working for AWS supporting the Speedglas Welding Helmet Range in the field.



So What's Changed? 

Over the years I have seen a lot of changes for the better in the welding industry. I remember in the earlier days of my trade, I was given a Blueprint plan which was actually blue, I had to mark out the plate doing all the measurements and do the majority of cutting out by hand before I welded the pieces together using only electrodes (stick welding) and a hand-held helmet which took one of my hands out of action. These days with the introduction of Computer Numerical Control - (CNC) machines that offer Laser cutting, Plasma cutting and Oxyfuel, as well as the introduction of Inverter DC style MIG multi-processing machines, the speed of production has increased substantially. Automation is an interesting topic as it keeps work in Australia by increasing our efficiencies but at the same time, it does take some work from boilermakers. Balance is key in the future if we want to remain globally competitive while maintaining work for our skilled welding workforce.

I still remember my days on the tools having to climb up a conveyer belt, lugging cable behind me because the machines were so heavy you needed a truck to move them. These days the machines are so much smaller, lighter, compact and completely mobile and offer a more stable arc, hence the need for good quality auto-darkening welding helmets with powerful sensor technology. It’s funny how innovation drives innovation.



How's the Welding Industry Looking In Victoria & Tasmania? 

Unfortunately, in recent times, the welding industry in Victoria and Tasmania has lost a lot of big players off-shore, but many new players have sprung up in their place keeping the welding industry strong down in Australia’s southern states. With more portable buildings being made from cement slab there is less need for steel, yet the structural welding industry continues to grow and offset the losses in manufacturing to overseas.

In my opinion, things get better in the welding industry every year and the proof of the work welders do is evident everywhere you see metal join metal. Every time you drive over the Westgate Bridge, every time you see a trailer pass you-by and every time you drive past any kind of construction. I’m proud to be a part of the industry that helps build Australia. The only aspect I’d love to see is the continued improvement in the training of the apprentices coming through the system by offering the latest technology and better training facilities and a more acute focus on TAFE. We can’t just be pushing these young people through a system. Welders are professional tradesman who have pride in their work and need the education to support them.

One thing that hasn't changed is the amount of welding fume that is generated by the various welding consumables. As a young apprentice, I remember reading on the packets of electrodes that welding fumes were dangerous. In those days you would be told to “suck it up” and unfortunately we did, literally. However, now with the introduction of OH&S playing a major role in the workforce, conditions have, and will continue to improve. With the recent reclassification of welding fume as carcinogenic, we have seen even greater awareness of welders’ health and safety with employers taking on their responsibility to give their employees the protection required when welding. For me there is nothing more rewarding than revisiting a site after the introduction of the Adflo Powered Air Respirators, listening to the feedback from the welders on how the Adflo PAPR has impacted their productivity, performance and their health for the better.

As I always say, you only have one set of eyes and only get one pair of lungs so look after them. It’s great to see that over the last 50 years the industry has changed enough to now enforce this sentiment.



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