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Prepared by:
International Union of Operating Engineers
Stationary Engineers Department

      The International Union of Operating Engineers is a progressive trade union that emerged from the National Union of Steam Engineers. On December 7, 1896, a group of stationary engineers met in Chicago and formed the National Union of Steam Engineers. This organization was forged to unify the stationary engineers in an effort to achieve better working conditions, wages and benefits. Today, the IUOE has a diversified membership of approximately 400,000 members, of which over 120,000 are employed in the field of stationary engineering. Stationary engineers operate and maintain a variety of mechanical systems including all types of boiler Systems. They frequently are the only persons at a facility who have the knowledge of how these systems work. They are vested with the responsibility of ensuring that the boiler and other facility systems work in a safe, effective and efficient manner.


      The work of stationary engineers is varied and complex. They are responsible for the operation, maintenance, renovation and repair of boiler systems and all other mechanical systems within a given facility. They are employed in schools, hospitals, hotels, apartment buildings, shopping malls, airports, power plants, industrial and manufacturing plants, breweries, co-generation plants, petro-chemical plants, office and commercial buildings, government facilities and other workplaces. In operating and repairing these facilities, stationary engineers perform work on boilers and steam systems; heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; building automation systems; diesel engines, turbines, generators; pumps, piping and compressed gas systems; refrigeration and electrical systems and numerous other physical plant functions. These workers are called stationary engineers because the equipment they operate is similar to equipment operated by locomotive or marine engineers except it is not in a vehicle that moves.
      Stationary engineers start up, regulate, repair and shut down equipment. They ensure that equipment operates safely and economically and within established limits by monitoring attached meters, gauges, and other instruments, and increasingly, computerized controls. They manually control equipment and make the necessary adjustments. They use hand and power tools to perform repairs and maintenance ranging from a complete overhaul to replacing defective valves, gaskets, or bearings. They also record relevant events and facts concerning operation and maintenance in an equipment log. On steam boilers, for example, they observe, control, and record steam pressure, temperature, water level, power output, and fuel consumption. Stationary engineers can often detect potential mechanical problems by observing and listening to the pitch of the machinery. They routinely check safety devices, identifying and correcting any trouble that develops.
      Stationary engineers also perform routine maintenance, such as motors and other operating repairing and replacing pumps, equipment, lubricating moving parts, replacing filters, and removing soot and corrosion that can reduce operating efficiency. They also test and chemically treat hydronic Systems to prevent corrosion and harmful deposits.
      A stationary engineer may be in charge of operation, maintenance and repair of all mechanical systems in a building, industrial power plant or engine room. Engineers may direct the work of assistant stationary engineers, turbine operators, boiler tenders, and air-conditioning and refrigeration operators and mechanics. In a small building or industrial plant, there may be only one stationary engineer at a time who will be responsible for the entire operation and maintenance of the building or facility.


      Stationary engineers generally have steady year-round employment. They usually work a 5-day, 40-hour week. Many work one of three daily 8-hour shifts in 24 hour operations, and weekend and holiday work often is required.
      Engine rooms, power plants, and boiler rooms usually are clean and well lighted. Even under the most favorable conditions, however, some stationary engineers are exposed to high temperatures, dust, dirt, and high noise levels from the equipment. General maintenance duties may cause contact with oil and grease, as well as fumes or smoke. Workers spend much of their time on their feet; they also may have to crawl inside boilers and work in crouching or kneeling positions to inspect, clean, or repair equipment.
      Because stationary engineers work around boilers as well as electrical and mechanical equipment, they must be alert to avoid burns, electric shock, and injury from moving parts.


      Although stationary engineers work in a wide variety of places throughout North America, most work in the more heavily populated areas where large industrial and commercial establishments are usually located.


      The IUOE has a long history of commitment to ensuring that its members receive training necessary and appropriate to the performance of their work. For over one hundred years the IUOE and its local unions have been involved in establishing, operating and administering a wide range of training programs and projects. This training has achieved both craft and regulatory compliance objectives.
      Stationary engineers acquire their skills through a formal apprenticeship program or through informal on-the-job training which usually is supplemented by courses at trade or technical schools. In addition, a good background can be obtained in the Navy or the Merchant Marine because marine engineering plants are similar to many stationary power and heating plants. The increasing complexity of the equipment with which they work has made a high school diploma or its equivalent necessary; many stationary engineers have some college education.

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