A stationary engineer is a person that works with, repairs or operates the boiler system of a facility. Power companies, chemical and industrial facilities, refineries and other fuel based companies as well as government facilities all employ stationary engineers. These engineers are responsible for all functions relating to this operation, and in some places they are responsible for the heating of the structure. In colder climates, several engineers may be employed at one company just to ensure the heating units remain operable during the winter months.
This position brings employees into contact with the boilers, heating units, electrical units and other machinery that is often encased in a protective asbestos covering. Many electrical components are encased in asbestos as a fire retardant and, until recently, gaskets made for machinery often contained high concentrations of the material. Wiring found in older factories and plants often still contain the asbestos coating that was standard practice in the early part of the 20th century. Repairs to equipment may involve removing the protective coating, stripping or replacing wires coated with the fire retardant or replacing seals on diesel engines. Many types of boiler systems that are still in use today date back to the early 1940’s and are filled with this material.
Asbestos and Stationary Engineering
Since the early 1980’s, stationary engineers have been receiving specialized training on how to deal with asbestos. Many companies and government entities have made an effort to remove it from the workplace. However, even after careful removal high levels of asbestos can still be found in these areas. The risk of exposure remains high, even now, as old equipment is still being replaced with new, safer machinery. Stationary engineers run a risk each day that they work with antiquated equipment or assist with the removal and replacement of that equipment.
Unless a facility has been newly built, there is a risk associated with being a stationary engineer. Depending on the equipment used, the time period it was built in and the fire precautions used to ensure the safety of the building and the people within, there is a good chance that asbestos can be found in their work place. These engineers should use extreme caution around older wiring, heating systems, and other machinery that may contain asbestos insulation.