Plumber Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this Red Seal Occupational Standard (RSOS) as the Red Seal standard for the Plumber trade.

Red Seal Occupational Standard Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Plombier/plombière

NOC: 7251

Designation Year: 1958

RSOS Products for Download

The Plumber Red Seal Occupational Standard is developed by Canadian trade representatives. It collects information about the trade as it is practiced across Canada.

This RSOS information is combined in several ways to generate several RSOS Products, each these is based on information contained in the complete RSOS, and is geared to user needs:



Red Seal Occupational Standard - Plumber

A complete description of all trade activities, skills and knowledge. The Standard defines the trade by collecting and organizing elements together.

Trade Profile - Plumber

A quick snapshot of all trade activities in the standard. It can be used to self-assess experience. It can be used to introduce a concise summary of all trade activities to those wanting to learn about the trade. It can also be used for gap analysis.

Curriculum Outline - Plumber

Organizes the Knowledge elements of the standard and provides recommendations for training levels. These are meant to assist in developing and delivering technical training curricula.

Red Seal Exam Self-Assessment Guide – Plumber (PDF, 558 KB) Use this self-assessment tool to rate your own understanding and experience with the tasks of the trade that are on the Red Seal examination.

General Information

Description of the Plumber Trade

“Plumber” is this trade’s official Red Seal occupational title approved by the CCDA. This standard 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



x x x x x x x x x x x x

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 hand and 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 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 malfunctions.

This standard recognizes some similarities or overlaps with the work of gasfitters, 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.

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 at:

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the skills and knowledge which support each sub-task of the trade. The most important essential skills for each sub-task have also been identified. 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, safety data sheets (SDS), the National Plumbing Code (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. They may be required to communicate in writing to other trade professionals such as engineers and architects.

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

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 diagnose and solve problems. 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 and other digital devices more commonly as sources of resource information, communication and cost reporting. Computers 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 these changes mean that related training and certification is often mandatory for both apprentices and journeypersons.

Trends in the Plumber Trade


With advances in plumbing and related systems, plumbers are increasingly required to upgrade their skills to stay current or specialize in different aspects of the trade. Updates to the NPC are resulting in an increased emphasis on health and safety, environmental protection, and efficient plumbing systems.

Technological advances are influencing the design for water supply, DWV, gas fitting, and hydronic heating/cooling systems. New technologies are affecting the design of piping systems and creating opportunities for the use of integrated plumbing systems in construction. Various digital technologies and software applications are now being used as a more relevant source for communication and resource information such as estimating, cost reporting, design, layout, system diagnosis and documentation. The use of embedment scanners, recording media devices and global positioning system (GPS) devices are becoming more common.


Industry has become conscious of energy usage and efficiency of equipment and systems, resulting in a higher expectation from building owners and clients to meet the standards of programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Energy Star. Plumbers must 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 projects. Many buildings are being built to standards that require new products and systems. This may include systems such as rainwater harvesting, grey water, solar thermal, geothermal, heat recovery and biomass.

Industry Expected Performance

All tasks must be performed according to the applicable jurisdictional codes and standards. All health and safety standards must be respected and observed. Work should be done efficiently and at a high quality without material waste or environmental damage. All requirements of the manufacturer, client specifications, the NPC and AHJ must be met. At a journeyperson level of performance, all tasks must be done with minimal direction and supervision. As a journeyperson progresses in their career there is an expectation they continue to upgrade their skills and knowledge to keep pace with industry and promote continuous learning in their trade through mentoring of apprentices.

Language Requirements

It is expected that journeypersons are able to understand and communicate in either English or French, which are Canada’s official languages. English or French are the common languages of business as well as languages of instruction in apprenticeship programs.


The CCDA and ESDC 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.

Acknowledgement is extended by ESDC and the CCDA to the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada for their contributions to the development of this standard.

Special thanks are offered to the following representatives who contributed greatly to the original draft of the standard and provided expert advice throughout its development:

  • Jarrod Brown - Nova Scotia
  • Adam Dodd - British Columbia
  • Scott Giesbrecht - Alberta
  • Michael Gordon - Ontario
  • Tim Groenendyk - Saskatchewan
  • Rick Guilbault - Manitoba
  • Tim Hayward - Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Blair Howes - Alberta
  • Mark MacAdam - Prince Edward Island
  • Justin MacDonald - New Brunswick
  • Andy O’Hearn - New Brunswick
  • Richard Player - Prince Edward Island
  • Renault Sage - Nunavut
  • Marco Silvestri - Manitoba
  • Ryan Skinner - Nova Scotia
  • Claudio Spanuolo - Ontario

This standard was prepared by the Labour Market Integration Directorate of ESDC. Its coordination, facilitation and processing was undertaken by employees of the standards development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division. The host jurisdiction of Alberta also participated in the development of this standard.