Operating Engineers, also known as Power Engineers outside of Ontario, are professional, skilled operators and managers responsible for providing light, heat, climate control, power or other utilities for buildings, industrial processes and thermal electric generating stations. They operate and maintain steam boilers and related mechanical equipment, such as pumps, gas compressors, generators, motors, steam turbines, air conditioning systems, heat exchangers and refrigeration equipment. The title of Power Engineer is the standardized Canadian designation.
Depending on the size of the facility or plant, an Operating Engineer is responsible for the operation of the utilities’ equipment, or may also be responsible for management and maintenance of all facility operations. Large facilities may have several Operating Engineers on a given operating shift, designated as shift engineers and assistant shift engineers. In all cases, a Chief Operating Engineer is designated as ultimately responsible for the entire utilities or power plant operation.
Please note that power plant operation falls under the Technical Standards and Safety Act 2000/01 and its related Operating Engineers Regulation 219/01. TSSA in conjunction with the Operating Engineers Industry Council and stakeholders update certification requirements on an on-going basis to ensure the safety of the plant and the public.
Unlike mechanical engineers, who require years of academic training before they can earn a living, Operating Engineers train and study for only a year before they can start to take home a good salary. Mechanical engineers must be recognized by the Professional Engineers of Ontario, which requires them to attend a post-secondary university for four years and intern for four years.
There are four classifications of Operating Engineers. 4th Class is the entry level certificate. Operating Engineers have a broad range of interesting and technically challenging responsibilities, including:
Refrigeration Operators (Levels A and B) manage, operate and maintain large refrigeration or cooling systems in multiple types of facilities and plants including recreational facilities, large cold storage facilities, food terminals and some large air condition and environmental systems in commercial and institutional buildings.
Compressor Operators manage, operate and maintain gas compression systems of different types and sizes. They are employed at chemical plants, natural gas distribution stations, mining industries and other large facilities that use compressed air or gas.
Although not a requirement of Ontario's Operating Engineers regulation, many companies and plants stipulate and require that their chemical and process operators have Operating Engineer certification in order to manage and operate their complex technical process systems.