Page 1

News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry • November 2016

Medical Gas: A Matter of Life and Death “It’s bizarre that medical gas is not part of the state’s plumbing code.” - Daniel Bent of American Plumbing and Heating

“We want to support education and young people who want to enter our profession. These kids are the future of our industry.” - Tim Fandel of Local 12

IN 2002, TWO WOMEN DIED DURING DIAGNOSTIC PROCEDURES AT ST. RAPHAEL’S Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut because of a medical gas cross connection. According to the New York Times, the women received lethal doses of nitrous oxide instead of oxygen. Earlier this year a baby boy died and a newborn girl suffered brain damage at a Sydney, Australia hospital because they were also given nitrous oxide instead of oxygen. The Guardian reported that the tragedy was the result of incorrectly installed medical gas pipes that failed to comply with government standards. Because of a lapse in the Commonwealth’s laws, there are no regulations that govern the installation of medical gas piping systems in Massachusetts. As the incidents in New Haven and Sydney illustrate, the omission could be a matter of life and death for patients at the state’s hospitals as well as at its nursing homes, dentists’ offices, and other healthcare facilities. A bill currently before the state legislature would establish regulations and bring medical gas piping systems under the control of the Massachusetts Board of Examiners of Plumbers and Gasfitters. The board would set standards to ensure that licensed, trained plumbers would perform the critical work. Despite the lack of regulations, plumbers have traditionally handled medical gas installations in the state. The issue became blurry in 2014, however, when the Commonwealth established a process piping license. An unintended consequence of the new license was that it potentially makes it possible for people to install systems who don’t have the proper training or experience with medical gas. By requiring licensed plumbers to do the work, the pending bill would codify the practice and help ensure patient safety.

Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association 978-777-8764

United Association Plumbers and Gasfitters Boston Local 12 617-288-6200

“It’s bizarre that medical gas is not part of the plumbing code,” says Daniel Bent, vice president of American Plumbing and Heating in Norwell.

“When they put the mask on you before you go under for surgery, it would be comforting to know that the medical gas system had been properly installed. I would sure want to know that a trained, certified plumber did the work.”

New Boston program helps keep seniors warm “IF IT WASN’T FOR MAYOR WALSH, I’D BE IN HOCK FOR THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS,” said 92year-old Joseph Cappuccio of Roslindale. ”This program — you can’t beat it.” Cappuccio was referring to Seniors Save, an innovative heating system replacement program offered by the Boston Home Center, part of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development. The program literally saved the senior homeowner a lot of money as well as the work required to coordinate the replacement of two old, inefficient heating systems, one for himself and one for the tenant in his two-family home. It also gave him peace of mind.

The company, a member of the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association, recently wrapped construction of Brigham and Women’s Building for the Future in Boston. The 358,670-square-foot, stateof-the-art medical and research facility, which required as many as 30 plumbers on a given day, is indicative of American’s projects. In business for over 30 years, the company is one of the largest plumbing

Seniors Save is an offshoot of the BHC’s Senior Home Repair program. The agency offers zero-interest, permanently deferred loans to replace roofs, improve bathrooms, and perform other work. The city

Continued on page 4

Continued on page 2

GBPCA and Local 12 support vocational schools The Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association joined forces with Plumbers Local 12 to donate $5,000 to area vocational and technical schools. The gifts were awarded earlier this year as five $1,000 grants to five schools. “We want to get more involved,” explains Tim Fandel, business agent with Local 12. The plumbers know that, like most public schools, budgets are generally tight for the tech schools, and the programs could use help. “We want to support education and young people who want to enter our profession,” Fandel adds. To ensure that the money would be directed to the school’s plumbing programs, the organizations set up purchase orders with plumbing supply houses. The schools were told that they could buy anything, such as tools, supplies, or materials, that would be the most beneficial for their programs. One of the recipients, Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, used its grant to purchase water closets, lavatories, and urinals, ac-

cording to Karl Jacobson, the school’s lead plumbing instructor. He and his students will use the supplies to construct a mockup of a commercial bathroom in the school’s workshop. “It’s a big help,” Jacobson says. “As a union plumber myself, I really appreciate Local 12 and the GBPCA, especially their interest in and support of vocational education.” The Whittier Tech instructor notes that enrollment is at an alltime high and that his plumbing classes are the largest in the history of the school. He adds that, beyond the grant, Local 12 has been a great resource. Last January, he took a group of his seniors to tour the Local’s training center. Some of the students applied to the apprenticeship program and were accepted. “I keep in touch with my graduates, and they are having a great experience at Local 12,” says Jacobson. Fandel says that the grants are another way to remain in touch with the vocational schools and that he welcomes the interaction. Continued on page 4

New Analyst, Ann O’Connor IT IS THE ROLE OF THE RESEARCH ANALYST TO DIG INTO RECORDS, bring questionable business practices to light, and otherwise help ensure that the members of Local 12 and the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association are able to compete on a level playing field. For the past 20 years, Paul Coutinho has served in that role. With his retirement approaching, Coutinho will be passing the baton to Ann O’Connor. The organizations’ new analyst brings lots of experience to the position. O’Connor was a research assistant at the Electrical Workers IBEW Local 103 in Boston for a number of years. She was also a union steward with the Service Employees Inter-

national Union local in Boston where she represented medical assistants, nursing assistants, and other healthcare workers. With a degree in labor studies and management from UMass Boston, O’Connor set herself on a path to work with unions. Continued on page 4

Mayor Martin J. Walsh with Local 12 plumbers from GBPCA contractor Boston Mechanical that installed Joseph Cappuccio’s heating systems.

Innovative Senior Saves Program Continued from page 1 recoups its money when the home is sold. It allows seniors to remain in their homes and age in place. “The big three criteria for seniors is we want to help keep them safe, dry, and warm,” says Rob Consalvo, BHC deputy director. “We realized that we were doing a lot of heating systems, but only after the system failed.” It was Mayor Walsh, Consalvo says, who came up with the idea of proactively addressing seniors’ heating systems before they stopped working. With the mayor’s blessing, the BHC established a pilot heating system replacement program in 2015. It was so popular that the agency made Seniors Save a permanent program this year. “There is a huge need,” says Consalvo. As part of the program, the BHC sends a construction specialist to inspect the heating system at a senior’s home. If it needs to be replaced and the homeowner meets the eligibility criteria, the agency offers a $3,500 grant and a deferred loan for anything over that amount. Staff members secure plumbing contractors, obtain the necessary permits, and help in other ways to make the project as seamless and worry-free for the seniors. The BHC hired Boston Mechanical, a Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association member and signatory with Local 12, to install Cappuccio’s two heating systems. Consalvo explains that many seniors are house-rich but cashpoor and often defer home re-

pairs such as replacing aging heating systems. The Senior Saves program helps by offering them the option of using the equity in their home to cover the remaining balance of the new systems after the BHC’s outright grant. Because the more efficient systems save energy costs, it also allows seniors to stretch their fixed-income dollars. In addition to helping seniors maintain their homes, the BHC offers a home repair program for constituents under 62 years old. It also helps residents obtain homes in the city by offering educational classes and resources along with a loan program. For those who qualify, the city offers zero-interest, deferred-payment loans that are forgivable if the homeowner remains in the house for ten years. The BHC offers foreclosure prevention services as well and boasts an 87% success rate in helping homeowners resolve foreclosures and save their homes. Mayor Walsh has pledged $500,000 annually to fund Senior Saves, and Consalvo expects that more than 50 homeowners will replace their heating systems through the program this year. “Seniors are the fastest growing population in Boston,” the BHC deputy director says. “I only see this program growing.” To apply for Senior Saves or get more information about any of the BHC’s programs, visit its website,, or call 617-635-HOME (4663). PAGE 2

MY PATH TO LOCAL 12 There are as many stories about why and how people become plumbers and join Local 12 as there are members. As a recurring feature in The Pipeline, we tell some of those stories by speaking with apprentices at the Local’s Training Center and sharing their journeys. In this issue, we focus on Chris Mohan and Ralph Shirley.

Ralph Shirley

Chris Mohan

Age: 34

Age: 35

First-year apprentice

Second-year apprentice

Working for E.M. Duggan

Working for J.C. Higgins



His parents struggled with drug addiction before turning around their lives. He and his family lived in Boston’s Grove Hall during the height of the drug and violence epidemic of the 80s and 90s, and his parents made every effort to ensure he avoided the pitfalls of the neighborhood. Shirley used sports as an outlet and was a decorated athlete who was later inducted into his high school’s hall of fame.


Earning a bachelors degree in economics with a minor in business management from UMass Lowell, Shirley was a production manger at a Boston-area company. More recently, he worked for a real estate developer and coordinated renovation projects. In that position he was hiring plumbers and other tradespeople. However, he was drawn to the hands-on construction work he was managing. “I have good leadership abilities and have always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Shirley says, explaining the detours he took in his journey to becoming a plumber. “But I’ve always liked working with my hands as well.” His father, who was a glazier by trade, was also a hands-on person. Shirley helped his dad starting at a young age and developed a passion for construction. While in high school, he remembers re-shingling the roof of his father’s house. His dad had health issues that prevented him from doing the work, but he supervised his enthusiastic son. Shirley says that he had a great

sense of pride after completing the project. While in college, he set up his own home exterior painting business through the College Works program. Lining up the summer jobs, hiring painters to help him, and other tasks related to the work gave Shirley a taste of the construction industry. So, how did he end up as a plumbing apprentice? Shirley’s godfather, Joe Ricardo, was a Local 12 plumber and has been a guiding force. “He enjoyed his work, was a top-notch mechanic, and has been having a great life,” Shirley explains about the nowretired plumber. “That was always in the back of my mind.” He decided to pursue plumbing, but he never considered anything other than joining the Local. “The opportunities just aren’t there in the non-union shops,” says Shirley. Noting that he is married and has three young children, he says that union benefits such as health insurance and dental are vitally important to him and his family. While retirement is a long way off, Shirley says that Local 12’s pension and annuity plans are also appealing and will help him have a great life like his godfather. He would someday like to use his leadership skills as a foreman or other management position. However, the first-year apprentice says, “I know I have a lot to learn first.”

Living paycheck to paycheck, he realized that he had to secure his future. His plan? Join Local 12, and become a plumber. Mohan had some construction experience working for a roofing contractor. He learned some basic carpentry skills from his father, who is in the trade. He installed truck accessories, which led to a sales position at the shop. That inspired him to attend college and earn a business administration degree. Mohan realized, however, that he really enjoyed working with tools more and would rather do that than salesrelated work. He has some friends who are Local 12 members. He saw that they were enjoying their work, had a stable career, and were making a good living that allowed them to provide for their families. Mohan applied to the union. When his application was accepted, he says that he was excited, but nervous. “A lot of the other apprentices come from a trade school or have experience working at a plumbing shop,” Mohan notes. “I didn’t have any experience.” His nervousness subsided when he observed how willing other members were to help him both at Local 12’s training center and on job sites. “If I don’t understand something, they’ll explain it to me,” Mohan says. “Not just the task at hand, but the bigger picture as well. I’m learning how

everything fits together.” Within a few days of joining Local 12, Mohan was working as an apprentice for Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association member, J.C. Higgins Corp. He says that he’s done everything from coring holes to soldering and installing pipe. “It’s under the watchful eyes of a journeyman and foremen,” Mohan adds. “But they actually allow me to do some plumbing. The training center is great, but there’s nothing like getting thrown into the fire on the job.” Mohan’s brother is a member of Carpenters Local 33 in Boston. Before joining Local 12, he understood the benefits that the construction unions provide to their members. But he wasn’t as prepared for the strong sense of brotherhood and fellowship he’s experienced since joining the union. “We all have each other’s backs,” Mohan explains. He has found his own way of giving back. “I may not have had any plumbing experience when I started,” the 35-year old apprentice says. “But I have more life experience. So I help [the younger apprentices] in that aspect.” On the verge of starting his own family, Mohan says that he Continued on page 4 PAGE 3

Why Licensed Plumbers Should Install MedGas Systems Continued from page 1 contractors in the region. Bent says that most of American’s work is in the hospital and biotech markets and that about 50% of its business is medical gas. “It’s a complicated process,” he notes, referring to the installation of medical gas systems. “It’s not like installing water pipe. It’s a specialized, clean, nitrogen-purge process. We’re talking about patients’ lives on the line.” Local 12 apprentices learn the complicated processes of brazing and medical gas systems at the union’s training center. “It’s important for medical gas to be part of the state’s plumbing code so it can be properly regulated and inspected,” says Rick Carter, the Training Center’s director. The center has a robust medical gas curriculum that incorporates components from two health and safety standards organizations, the National Fire Protection Agency and the National Inspection, Testing, and Certification Corporation. Apprentices take the 32-hour course in the fifth year of their training program. The center also offers ongoing medical gas installer and brazing recertification classes for journeymen. Around half of the work that Local 12 plumbers perform in the field is in hospitals

and other medical facilities. It’s not surprising given the Boston area’s many healthcare organizations and its reputation as a hub for world-class medical care. According to Harry Brett, the Local’s business manager, hospitals want to use Local 12 plumbers because of their rigorous medical gas training and their ready knowledge about key issues such as safety protocols, emergency shutoffs, and tieins with nursing stations. “When they put the mask on you before you go under for surgery,” Brett says, “it would be comforting to know that the medical gas system had been properly installed. I would sure want to know that a trained, certified plumber did the work.”

Her union background extends farther back than college. O’Connor’s father was a bookbinder at Houghton Mifflin and a member of the pressman’s union. Her siblings are all schoolteachers and members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. As a teenager, she was a Teamster while selling handbags at Filene’s department store. “I recently discovered that my great grandfather worked for the Cambridge Gas and Light Company,” O’Connor says. “My guess is that he was also part of an organized group.” O’Connor is eager to apply her extensive experience in her new position. “I’m going to make sure that non-union contractors are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” she says. “Especially those involved with publicly funded government projects.” O’Connor will be looking at issues such as prevailing wage which help protect Local 12 members as well as all plumbers. In addition to her work with unions, O’Connor enjoys writing. Recently, she wrote some articles for the Boston Globe about un-

Supporting VocEd Programs Continued from page 2 “These kids are the future of our industry. It’s a natural pathway for graduates to learn about Local 12 and consider joining us.” He also notes that the union has many alumni from vocational schools among its membership. “Now they can go back and help their schools.”

Local 12’s training center includes a mockup of a hospital’s medical gas system in one of its classrooms.

O’Connor brings much experience to analyst position Continued from page 2

Apprentices Roberto Cardoza (L) and Chance DiPietro practice brazing, one of the skills used to install medical gas systems, at Local 12’s training center.

deremployment. “The labor scholar in me finds the topic fascinating,” she says. One of her interests outside of working with plumbers involves water of a different sort. O’Connor is a volunteer member of the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands. A history buff, she says that she’s not into dates, facts, and figures, but enjoys researching the past. When she is exploring the islands and looking back at the city, she says it’s exciting to think about what life was like many years ago. “Our contractors welcome Ann and look forward to working with her,” says Hugh Kelleher, GBPCA executive director. “She has a proven record. Her watchful eye will be a great help to us.”

Chris Mohan Continued from page 3 appreciates Local 12’s retirement benefits, including its pension and annuity plans. He’s seen older people struggle with finances, and he regrets that he had not saved much prior to joining the union. “My fiancé and I are now looking forward to enjoying life. It’s great piece of mind.”

The other 2016 grant recipients were Essex Technical High School in Danvers, Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School in Wakefield, and Lynn Vocational and Technical Institute in Lynn. The GBPCA and Local 12 will award the grants annually and will rotate the gifts among the 15 vocational schools in its Eastern Massachusetts jurisdiction.

Plumbers & Gasfitters Boston Local 12 1240 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02125 617-288-5400

Editorial Board Harry Brett Business Manager, U.A. Local 12 Joseph Cannistraro President, Greater Boston PCA Tim Fandel Business Agent, U.A. Local 12 Hugh Kelleher Executive Director, Greater Boston PCA Roger Gill Funds Administrator, U.A. Local 12

The Pipeline: November 2016  

Articles include Medical gas: a matter of life and death, New Boston program helps keep seniors warm, GBPCA and Local 12 support vocational...

The Pipeline: November 2016  

Articles include Medical gas: a matter of life and death, New Boston program helps keep seniors warm, GBPCA and Local 12 support vocational...