The design, installation, maintenance and repair of pipe systems used to convey materials such as steam, air, water, chemicals, gas and sewage is performed by skilled tradespeople known as pipefitters.
Pipefitters work in a variety of commercial settings, from businesses and factories to power plants and chemical treatment facilities, as well as for the military. In residential settings, pipefitters are more commonly called plumbers.
Prior to the 1970s, asbestos was used for insulating pipes, in particular high-temperature pipes such as hot water and steam pipes. Some piping was actually made of asbestos. Asbestos pipes were also common in shipbuilding.
In addition to the pipes themselves, the pumps and valves in piping systems commonly utilized asbestos gaskets and rope packing, as did the turbines, tanks and other equipment that tied in with piping systems. The flanges where pipes were connected used asbestos gaskets.
Pipefitters and plumbers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Exposure to asbestos is one concern.