Scope of the Boilermaker Occupation
A journeyperson boilermaker is a tradesperson who must possess the full range of knowledge, abilities and skills required to fabricate, construct, install, assemble, erect, demolish, repair and maintain a wide variety of vessels, tanks, towers, boilers, hoists and other structures, ancillary equipment and fixtures made of steel, other metals, fiberglass, and other materials. The broad scope of the boilermaker trade includes the construction and maintenance activities performed in the field and in industrial and commercial plants such as:
- cement plants
- fertilizer plants
- water treatment facilities
- iron and steel production facilities
- steam generation plants
- electric power generation (thermal, nuclear, hydro) plants
- gas turbines
- refineries (oil, chemical)
- shipbuilding and repair docks
- pulp and paper mills
- wind and fusion sites
- and many other industrial and commercial facilities
In general, a Boilermaker rigger/fitter is required to be capable of climbing ladders which may vary from 3-step ladders to 300 foot ladders on flare and smoke stacks. Staging platforms and swing staging of all types must be erected and worked upon and therefore our members must be capable of climbing onto and up such equipment, but also capable of evacuating themselves and, if necessary, assist in evacuation of injured fellow workers from that equipment in an emergency. There are some cases that require a rigger to wear a rigging belt which could contain up to or exceeding 40 lbs. of tools and/or equipment while working on ladders or staging. There are other cases that might require a rigger or a fitter to use hand lines to pull up tools or materials that could exceed 100 lbs. and for which there are no mechanical alternatives.
A Boilermaker rigger/fitter may also be required to work in very confined spaces and also be required to use or handle equipment or tools that range from 5-100 lbs. in weight. The working conditions can vary from working outside in inclement weather to working inside buildings of confined spaces in high temperatures or in conditions that require breathing apparatus or other protective equipment.
The trade of the boilermaker has progressed considerably in many areas. Recent years have seen an increase in new plant construction in the offshore, aluminum, plastics, processing and natural gas industries. The increased size and complexity of the plants being constructed in somewhat remote areas contributes to an increasingly competitive contractor environment and to a very mobile trade. For many workers the economic benefits and the availability of work outweigh other considerations and they select the working and living conditions associated with large construction projects in isolated locations. Advancing technology and new materials such as more modular construction, higher quality welds and welding material, and larger lifts and lifting capacity have contributed to many changes in the field. Current trends are resulting in the introduction of automated equipment, new techniques and processes and a need for an increased proportion of work time spent in the welding function. Of importance, too, is the fact that more women are becoming tradespersons in this area.
Trade training curricula are continually being updated and modified to meet the demands of the changing trends, technology and new materials. The increased complexity of the trade and the changing nature of the work are increasing demand for skills upgrading which is provided through joint union/management training trust funds.
This section would not be complete without mention of the fact that the work of the boilermaker, by its very nature, is extremely hazardous. The boilermaker is continually required to train for safety in the work place due to the possibility of exposure to hazardous materials and gases that could create health problems. Errors in judgment or in practical application of trade knowledge can be extremely costly, both in terms of injury to workers and damage to equipment or materials. Constant and vigilant attention to the application of safety and accident prevention must be maintained by workers at all times.