Pipelayers are specialized construction workers who are typically among the first workers engaged in new construction. They are tasked with digging trenches and slots in the ground and dropping in pipe that will connect houses and businesses in new construction to water and sewer main lines. In projects that involve large areas like new subdivisions or business parks, pipelayers also help install storm drains and drainage pipes that carry away excess ground water. Pipelayers also work in the energy industry by helping to lay oil and gas pipelines which cover wide areas to carry these fuels from fields to refineries to consumers.
Working as a pipelayer involves great deal of digging, as most pipes must be sunk into the ground at levels which can be deeper than 30 feet. Pipelayers typically use automated equipment like earth movers, cranes, and backhoes to dig the trenches for these pipes, but may also perform manual work in finishing and leveling these spaces, as well as shoring walls until the pipe can be lowered inside. Once the pipe is laid, the pipelayers carefully fit segments together, typically by the application of extensive welding to make each seam in the pipeline leak-proof.
A career as a pipelayer involves a great deal of manual labor, so anyone interested in pursuing this profession should expect to lift and move 50-100-pound loads by hand on a regular basis. Pipelaying work is also almost exclusively performed in the field on job sites, and large projects and pipeline work can involve extended time away from home until completion. Many employers prefer applicants with some technical school training in welding and heavy equipment operation, as well as general construction experience. Aspiring pipelayers should expect to work initially in an apprentice or junior role before being elevated to a pipelaying position by their employers.
Connect pipe pieces and seal joints.
Cover pipes with earth or other materials.
Install and repair sanitary and stormwater sewer structures and pipe systems.
Check slopes for conformance to requirements, using levels or lasers.
Align and position pipes to prepare them for sealing.