Plumber National Occupational Analysis (NOA) 2010

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this National Occupational Analysis (NOA) as the national standard for the occupation of Plumber.

2010 – Occupational Analyses Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Plombier/plombière

NOC: 7251

Designation Year: 1958

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General Information


“Plumber” is this trade’s official Red Seal occupational title approved by the CCDA. This analysis covers tasks performed by plumbers whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:














Pipefitter – Plumber Specialty















Plumbers install, repair and maintain plumbing fixtures and systems such as water, hydronic, drain, waste and vent (DWV), low pressure steam, residential fire, chemical, and irrigation. They also install specialized systems such as medical gas, process piping, compressed air, water conditioners, fuel piping, sewage and water treatment, and storage and flow equipment. Plumbers interpret drawings, refer to layouts of existing services, and review applicable codes and specifications to determine work details and procedures. They locate and mark positions for fixtures, pipe connections and sleeves, and cut openings to accommodate pipe and fittings.

Plumbers may be employed by plumbing/mechanical contractors, service companies, and maintenance departments of manufacturing, commercial, health care and educational facilities. They may also be self-employed. Plumbers install piping and equipment in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings and sites.

Plumbers use a variety of tools and equipment, such as power tools, welding and soldering/brazing equipment, and hoisting and lifting equipment to perform the tasks in their trade. To perform some tasks or use some equipment, specific certification may be required. Plumbers work with a variety of piping materials such as copper, steel, plastic, glass, cast iron, cement, fibreglass and specialty materials. Before assembling and fitting pipe sections, tubing and fittings, the pipes must be measured, cut and bent as required. Joining pipe may be done by various means, such as threading, using mechanical joints, welding, soldering/brazing and using fastening materials and compounds. Plumbers test and commission systems to ensure proper operation. They perform scheduled, unscheduled and emergency maintenance and repair.

Safety awareness is essential for plumbers. They may work indoors or outdoors and working conditions vary from one job to another. The work of plumbers can be physically demanding. Plumbers often need to lift and carry heavy materials and equipment. While performing their duties, plumbers are also required to do considerable standing, climbing and kneeling. They may work at heights and in confined spaces. Special precautions may have to be taken when working with fluids, gases, steam and hazardous elements. Plumbers need to assess the systems and the environment they have to work in to identify possible dangers.

Key attributes for people entering this trade are good mechanical, mathematical and spatial visualization skills. Plumbers also need good communication skills to communicate with co‑workers and clients. Analytical/problem solving skills are required to interpret building plans, inspect piping systems and diagnose system faults and/or malfunctions.

This analysis recognizes some similarities or overlaps with the work of gas fitters, steamfitters/pipefitters, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics and sprinkler system installers.

With experience, plumbers act as mentors and trainers to apprentices in the trade. They may also move into other positions such as instructors, inspectors, estimators and project managers.

Occupational Observations

With advances in plumbing and heating systems, plumbers are increasingly required to upgrade their skills to stay current or specialize in certain aspects of the trade. Updates to the National Plumbing Code (NPC) are resulting in an increased emphasis on health and safety, environmental protection, and reliable and efficient piping systems.

New approaches are being used to install more sophisticated systems and fixtures, such as low consumption fixtures and high efficiency boilers. Technological advances are influencing the design for water supply, DWV, gas fitting and hydronic heating/cooling. New technologies are also affecting gas and water piping and increasing the use of integrated plumbing systems in home construction. Computers are now being used as a more common source for resource information, communication and cost reporting. They are also used as a tool for design, layout, research, system diagnosis and estimating.

Some of the tools that have become more commonly used are embedment scanners, cameras, global positioning systems (GPS) and scopes. Fusion welding is becoming more prevalent in gas lines, and geothermal, sewage, water distribution and hydronic systems.

Industry is becoming more conscious of energy usage and efficiency of equipment and systems resulting in the introduction of programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Enerstar strive for lowered energy consumption. Plumbers must now be more aware of the impact the trade has on the environment, the emerging requirements of these programs and the specific site requirements that are critical to the projects. Many buildings are being built to environmental standards that require specialized products and systems. This may include concepts such as the capture of runoff water and absence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in materials and products.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

  • understand how essential skills are used in the trades;
  • learn about individual essential skills strengths and areas for improvement; and
  • improve essential skills and increase success in an apprenticeship program.

The tools are available online or for order.

The essential skills profile for the plumber trade indicates that the most important essential skills are document use, oral communication and problem solving.

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the competency statements which support each subtask of the trade. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills, taken from the essential skills profile.

Plumbers require strong reading skills to consult installation procedures, reference manuals, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), the NPC and industry standards and safety requirements when installing, repairing and maintaining plumbing fixtures and systems. They also refer to project specifications and work orders when planning a job.

Document use is important in the work of plumbers. Plumbers interpret diagrams in the NPC to ensure compliance with regulatory standards. They interpret schematics and working drawings when planning the installation of piping systems. Plumbers read assembly drawings to install fixtures and appliances. They prepare sketches and drawings to plan a job.

Writing skills are used by plumbers to perform tasks such as writing lists of materials required for a job, completing order forms to request materials, and keeping daily logs to track work status and reminders. When required, they must write incident or accident reports.

Plumbers work in both imperial and metric systems of measurement. They locate and mark positions for pipe connections. They perform a variety of calculations such as offsets, drain line fall, hydraulic load, and temperature and pressure calculations depending on the type of piping system being installed. Plumbers estimate materials and supplies needed to complete a project. They may estimate labour requirements and prepare quotations and invoices.

Plumbers require good oral communication skills to interact with colleagues, apprentices, supervisors, suppliers, clients and other tradespersons when co-ordinating work, resolving problems and ensuring safety.

Plumbers diagnose and solve problems identified by clients. They decide on work priorities and plan and organize their work accordingly. Plumbers may determine the most cost effective way to use materials and supplies when installing plumbing and heating systems.

During the course of a work day, plumbers must interact with others such as co-workers, suppliers, clients and other trades.

Plumbers use computers as a more common source for resource information, communication and cost reporting. They are also used as a tool for design, layout, research, system diagnosis and estimating.

Changes to the NPC periodically modify procedures and methods for the design and installation of piping systems. Advances in technology are also changing the design, applications and materials of systems. There is an increased emphasis on worker health and safety. All theses changes mean that related training and certification is often mandatory for both apprentices and journeypersons.


The CCDA and HRSDC wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special acknowledgement is extended by HRSDC and the CCDA to the following representatives from the trade.

  • Fred Batke - Alberta
  • Donald Campbell - Prince Edward Island
  • Phil Dixon - New Brunswick
  • Mark A. Gilmore - United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry
  • Michael Gordon - Ontario
  • Gerard Hall - Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Coram Lalonde - Manitoba
  • Darren Muise - Nova Scotia
  • Ben Muylle - British Columbia
  • Chris Penny - United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry
  • Richard Pickering - Saskatchewan

This analysis was prepared by the Workplace Partnerships Directorate of HRSDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this analysis were undertaken by employees of the NOA development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division. Keith Crowell for the host jurisdiction of Alberta also participated in the development of this NOA.

Comments or questions about NOAs may be forwarded to:

Trades and Apprenticeship Division
Labour Market Integration Directorate
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 6th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0J9

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