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Gas Fitter


Description

Natural gas has become a leading source of energy in the past few decades. In order to install gas pipes so that their homes and offices have energy and electricity, people need the expertise of a gas fitter. Gas fitters install natural gas lines in structural establishments, for equipment ranging from industrial boilers to barbecue gas. They also install, test and service related equipment such as gas meters, regulators, valves and burners.

Gas fitters fit into the group of "pipe trades," which deal with the installation, maintenance and repair of piping systems. They spend a great deal of their time installing natural gas lines in various buildings. On occasion, a gas fitter may also be called upon to install or repair underground gas mains. Some gas fitters specialize in a particular natural gas product such as heating, refrigeration and air conditioning sectors, work for a natural gas or propane utility, a furnace or boiler manufacturer or as a maintenance mechanic for a leasehold company.

Following a complex set of blueprints, the gas fitter assembles a system that will bring natural gas into the building from an underground line. From there, the gas is diverted to industrial machinery where it will power the factory's operations.

They are perfectionists by trade, since the product they work with can be deadly if any mistakes are made. If an emergency situation arises such as a gas leak, they must diagnose the problem, like a doctor, and create a quick solution. Therefore, when they work, they must always double-check everything they do and make accurate cuts into metal, connecting the pipes tightly. This type of accuracy is to prevent future problems from occurring. In a closed space, a mixture of natural gas and trapped air could ignite an explosion.

Life as a gas fitter could require long days, harsh conditions and physically demanding work. Gas fitters, however, are an essential part of the energy and petroleum industry because they ensure customers get the natural gas they need and that gas companies produce enough of the source from the ground. Seeing a project through from blueprint to construction can be very rewarding.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Successful gas fitters need an aptitude for mechanics and electronics. They must have good hand-eye coordination and good manual dexterity. They must be good with people as they have to deal with customers all day. Gas fitting is most rewarding for those who enjoy working with little direction or supervision. Accordingly, gas fitters also enjoy variety in their jobs as well as security.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study drawings and specifications to determine the layout of the installation and materials required
  • Determine the size and type of pipe, equipment, appliances and devices to use
  • Measure and mark reference points for installation of gas lines and equipment
  • Install and maintain gas meters and regulators and gas lines between gas unit and gas meter
  • Install, maintain and service gas heating units and their components, such as burners, valves and automatic controls
  • Install vents and flues and connect gas appliances such as ranges, dryers, barbecues, furnaces and boilers
  • Repair and service gas appliances and related equipment
  • Test and adjust control mechanisms and check pipes and piping connections for gas leaks using gas detecting devices
  • Attend to gas escape calls and assist in the investigation of gas fires and explosions
  • Prepare reports on work performed and condition of facilities
  • Advise clients regarding standards, safety features and maintenance of gas units and system
  • Respond to emergency calls about escaping gas
  • May assist in the investigation of gas fires and explosions
  • Gas fitters work both indoors and outdoors at physically demanding tasks. They generally work a 40-hour week with longer hours sometimes required for emergencies or to meet construction deadlines. There may be risk of injury involved in working with explosive gases and power tools, therefore safety training is usually provided.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Gas fitters work for gas utility companies and gas servicing companies and in the construction, manufacturing and utilities industries. Those employed by utility companies repair and extend gas mains and service pipes. Gas fitters employed by propane distributors install vaporizers, and related equipment. Gas fitters that work for mechanical and service companies install and maintain piping and appliances in residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Career advancement for gas fitters is not restricted to becoming a senior worker or earning a higher salary. Experienced gas fitters may advance to supervisory positions such as foreman, maintenance manager or service manager, or start their own contracting businesses. With additional training, gas fitters may transfer their skills to other pipe trades or become safety codes officers or inspectors. They could also be consultants on projects and participate in more complex problem resolution.
 

  Educational Paths  
Gas fitters receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a gas fitter, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary from state to state, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent less than what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the gas fitter a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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