A pump operator controls pumping equipment for tasks like firefighting, wastewater processing, and agricultural applications. Training usually occurs on the job with the equipment that will be used. In some cases, it is possible to take certifying courses, and it may be necessary to carry a certification to work. Qualified pump operators can also pursue certification as technicians and mechanics to expand the scope of jobs they can perform.
One form of pump operator handles the pumping apparatus on fire trucks. This includes tanker trucks with water or chemicals as well as connections to hydrants for access to a steady supply of water. The pump operator needs to be able to complete connections, control the flow of water, and direct fire personnel as they work with the equipment. This work typically requires some classroom training and a certification test to confirm that the pump operator is ready for service at the site of a fire.
Other operators handle pumping systems at sewage plants, agricultural facilities, and other sites where water and other fluids need to be pumped. The job can include running the pumping system as well as handling basic maintenance and repair. Many systems require routine maintenance like replacement of valves in addition to periodic inspections and repairs to keep the pumps running smoothly. Problems can contribute to issues like pollution or a temporary facility shutdown while personnel work to get the pumps working again.
Pump operators can work with hazardous materials like chemicals or mixed concrete. They sometimes need extra training so they can work safely and effectively. Part of their job includes checking for safety issues, educating other personnel, and looking out of the health and safety of everyone on site. If the pump operator identifies a problem, the issue must be addressed before activities like transferring chemicals between tankers can occur.
Companies usually prefer that their pump operators be physically fit and with good vision, because they need to be able to clearly see indicator lights and gauges. They also must be able to read documentation on the equipment they use. Training can include an orientation on the equipment as well as education about general safety. If a facility uses extremely hazardous materials, the pump operator may need to attend a special class to get a certification. The employer typically pays for this and should also provide appropriate protective gear to allow personnel to work safely in potentially dangerous environments.