Are You Qualified to Install Natural and Medical Gases?

Plumbers require training, certification and practical experience.
Are You Qualified to Install Natural and Medical Gases?
Duplex system for medical gas.

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As plumbers, we are all well aware of the importance of maintaining our water and drainage systems to codes and standards that protect the health of the nation, but we also install and maintain natural and medical gases that are equally important.

Natural gas and medical gases tend to be left to last during education and practical experience. This type of weakness in experience and education can have life-threatening and major financial effects. The following are suggestions for turning this weakness into a strength.

Gas installation education and training

Education/training is the start of gaining practical experience. For years there hasn’t been much change in the way you would install a natural gas system. Black iron steel pipe was either screwed together or welded, but this has changed and so must we. Take a look at your local gas code and go to the section on allowable materials and connections of these materials. If any of these materials or connections seem unfamiliar to you then seek out a manufacturer’s representative for those products, your local supply house or training center and get the information. They should be willing to spend the time with you to explain the installation and limitations of these products and in doing so you can decide if this something you can see yourself using. If the answer is yes to using this product, then ask them for a qualification for their product at the end of the training or at least how to get qualified. The reason for this request for a qualification is that the gas codes normally state that an installer has to be qualified to the manufacture’s installations recommendations. By adding these newer materials and connections to our toolboxes we will start to increase our marketability as a plumber and contractor.

What does plumbing have to do with medical gases?

 

Qualification versus certification

A key difference between natural gas and medical gases installation and maintenance is that medical gases require, according to the National Fire Protection Agency 99-Health Care Facilities Code (NFPA 99), that a person doing the work has to be certified not qualified. The difference comes down to who is saying that you have met the minimum proficiencies to do the work required. The qualification process is typically done by the manufacturer or trained personnel, whereas a certification requires that you be educated and tested by mostly a third-party administrator.

In the case of a medical gas installer, according to NFPA 99, they have to have credentialing to the requirements of ASSE 6010, Professional Qualification Standard for a Medical Gas Installer. This involves a plumber having a minimum of four years experience related to piping work, attend a minimum of a 32-hour educational course and pass both a written exam plus a brazing exam in order to install medical gases. As you can see, this requires more dedication by the plumber to attain a certification compared to a qualification.

The importance of medical gas and plumbing

 

Practical experience

Once you have received the qualifications or certifications for these materials, then the second and most important part comes into play – practical experience. I am sure we all remember threading our first pipe (by hand) or brazing our first copper line. Now we see that it was just a part of the overall system installation. The other parts of these systems – the hangers, fittings and dos and don’ts that we learned the hard way or were showed to us by experienced plumbers – is critical to our success as plumbers.

About the Author: Jason Shank is the training director for the Cleveland Plumbing Industry (Plumbers Local 55) and Cleveland Plumbing Contractors Association JATC in Cleveland. Learn more at www.clevelandplumbingindustry.com.  



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