A pipefitter is a tradesperson who lays out, puts together, produces, maintains, and repairs mechanical piping systems. The pipefitter will install, inspect, and maintain - as well as repair or replace, as needed - such equipment as pipes, pipelines, filters, steam traps, strainers, and valves. The tradesperson must be able to visually inspect pressure gauges and vacuum gauges to recommend any necessary repair work. Responsibilities also include testing equipment and piping for potentially dangerous and destructive issues such as excessive pressure or leaks.
Work as a pipefitter usually begins with an apprenticeship that can last four to five years. Pipefitters who want to be part of a union must then pass a turn-out exam or apprenticeship test before becoming a licensed journeyman pipefitter. At that level, work might include dealing with industrial, commercial, or even marine piping. The job requires a number of skills, including but not limited to reading blueprints, threading pipes, welding, rigging, soldering, mitering, plasma cutting, and brazing. A pipefitter should have superb manual dexterity and good physical strength to work with the tools of the trade and the materials used. The ability to make detailed sketches to guide pipe fabrication and installation is exceedingly helpful. A pipefitter should have good depth perception as well, and an excellent sense of spatial reasoning. The job can involve working in a number of diverse locations, such as oil refineries, chemical plants, breweries, shipyards, power plants, construction firms, or even hospitals and other health care facilities.
- Visually inspect pressure and vacuum gauges and recommend repair work if necessary.
- Install, inspect and maintain repairs or replace pipes, pipelines filters, steam traps and strainers valves.
- Handle and install pipes of various materials.
- Test equipment and piping for pressure and leaks.