Steamfitters/pipefitters lay out, assemble, fabricate, maintain, repair and service piping systems carrying water, steam, fluids, gases, chemicals and fuel in heating, cooling, lubricating and process piping systems. They measure, cut, thread, groove, bend, solder, assemble and install metal, plastic and fiberglass pipes, valves and fittings. As well, they must be able to join and secure pipe sections of related equipment. They check systems for leaks. Steamfitters/pipefitters also do general maintenance work including replacement of worn components.
Steamfitters/pipefitters must carry out quality control checks on work performed. The system must be tested and commissioned to verify the quality of work and to confirm that the system is functioning to design specifications. This requires the tradesperson to be very knowledgeable in interpreting specifications, drawings, codes and blueprints.
Steamfitters/pipefitters are employed in construction and maintenance in industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors. They may work at mechanical construction firms, pulp and paper companies, refineries, thermal or steam generating plants, electric power companies and residential buildings. Construction contractors may require employees to travel and live in rented accommodation or company "on-site" camps.
Steamfitters/pipefitters need to be comfortable with a wide range of hand and power tools, handling equipment, torches and welding equipment. They use hand and power tools to measure, cut, thread and bend pipe to its required shape. They use testing equipment to check systems for leaks. They use welding, cutting, shaping, soldering, threading and brazing equipment to join pipes and fabricate sections of piping systems.
Areas of specialization in this trade include maintenance, quality control, rigging, fabrication and installation of particular types of systems. Steamfitters/pipefitters work both indoors and outdoors at physically demanding tasks that often require working at heights. There is some risk of injury when working in and around trenches, on scaffolding and with power tools and heavy equipment. They risk falls from ladders, cuts from sharp tools, and burns from hot pipes and soldering equipment. The piping systems may carry dangerous substances.
Steamfitters/pipefitters must have mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, mathematical skills, an ability to read and understand complex instructions and an ability to do careful and exacting work. They have to lift heavy pipes and sometimes work in uncomfortable or cramped positions. They need strength as well as stamina.
This analysis recognizes similarities or overlaps with the work of plumbers, boilermakers, oil burner mechanics, millwrights and sprinkler system installers.
With experience, steamfitters/pipefitters may advance to positions such as foreman, subcontractor, contractor, construction superintendent and instructor.
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