MOKENA, ILL. — The Chicago area’s United Association Pipefitters Local 597 held a grand opening in late August for its full-scale training hospital for medical gas installation, service, certification, maintenance and design. The hospital training center is part of Local 597’s Pipefitters Training Center here.
The event was open to contractors, hospital employees, facility directors and planners, maintenance and plant engineers, building design and construction professionals, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare decisionmakers.
The training center offers medical gas training that replicates the experience of working in an actual hospital. There is enormous value in learning in a realistic worksite setting — especially when that worksite is a healthcare facility, explained James Buchanan, business manager for Local 597. A lot can go wrong if medical gas lines have not been installed correctly. When lives hang in the balance, only the best will do, Buchanan noted.
In addition to the medical-gas training hospital, the Local 597 Pipe Fitters Training Center also features other real-life work settings. The 198,000- sq.-ft. building features interior space to replicate scaffolding, aerial lifts, rigging situations and other complex construction procedures. The center includes a full mini-mart which mirrors a supermarket, complete with freezers and coolers where apprentices receive hands-on experience. An outside basketball-court-size concrete pad features a pipe rack for cutting, supporting and connecting pipe through various processes. Also outside, helicopter hoisting training can take place. The center offers a full slate of basic and advanced classes for refrigeration and heating as well as electrical controls.
Local 597 works closely with the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago.
The local is the largest pipefitter’s local union in America and represents more than 7,500 men and women in the piping industry. The union serves the Chicago metropolitan area, as well as areas in northern Illinois and northwestern Indiana.
The union’s apprenticeship program offers on-the-job and classroom training. Apprentices entering the program must pass a certified drug-testing procedure and take a class on workplace diversity.
Each apprentice takes the OSHA 30- hour safety course, and every course in the curriculum has a safety component. The training center allows apprentices to learn how to use the latest safety equipment