Thursday, September 22, 2011
Rock Around The Clock
At 6:00 we have our safety meeting. It used to be you only had those once a week but it has become common to have them every day now, first thing. That lasts about 5-10 minutes and then everybody goes to their assigned job places to shake tools out and get to work. I have been hanging steel in this stairway that you see in the above photo. First, I welded on those short stubs you see on the right, next to the concrete. There are steel plates embedded in the slab that you can't see. This is 7 floors with embeds at each floor. Now, my welding leads only reach about 3 floors, so I have to pull the leads up or down the stairwell to reach the next section. When i run out of leads I pull everything back to the welding machine, roll it up, take the machine over to the buck hoist (if it's running) and take it up or down to the level where i can reach the rest. Now, sometimes I can just put it on the 3rd or 4th floor and just have to move the leads but sometimes I have to take it all the way up or down for other projects. Inevitably, I end up moving the machine at least once a day and pulling those leads all over the place. I know many people have commented on the "condition" of my biceps and shoulders. Well, now you know. They are in the shape they are from 18 years of moving, pulling, carrying, shoving or rolling up leads that weigh 30-40 lbs. each. If I carry them both at once to save time it is a fair load. And I'm also doing this going up and down any number of stairs. So, I just work on this type stuff; welding, carrying, moving, layout etc. until 9:00 a.m. Then we get a 15 minute break if our work allows it. if you have to work through break you can usually make it up later. I know 15 minutes doesn't seem like much but it does help a lot. we get a snack and something to drink, joke around and aggravate each other some more and then go back to work. Now, today, work involved flying steel into place with the crane as I have all the other stuff in place. The other day we were on the inside and the crane flew the steel over to us. I have help doing this. We maneuver the pieces into place and as the crane holds them, i tack weld them well enough that we can cut him loose and he'll go pick another. After we get all the pieces hung, I'll come back by myself and hard weld everything according to the drawings.
When I'm welding near the edge I wear a harness, in addition to the welding jacket, etc, and tie off to these clever devices. They pour them into the tops of each column and are left in place until all outer work is over. They are very handy. There is a handrail there, as you can see, but I often have to stand on a ladder to reach what I'm welding and if you do that you must be tied off.
So, we just keep working until 12:00 noon. Then we get a 30 minute lunch. It's enough time to rest up but not long enough that you don't want to go back to work. You don't loose your momentum, so to speak. Today we were hanging steel with the crane but we had to be up on the outside of the building in a lift in order to maneuver it correctly. There were 2 of us in the basket and one guy inside to hand me the leads etc. and help hold. This type work is a little scarier because the operator is flying the steel right over us and then lowers it down to us. We use a special clamp of the steel called a "plate dog". It basically bites the steel as long as there is pressure or weight on it and releases when the tension eases and the rigger flips a safety latch. You have to use these when straps would get caught behind the steel once it was set. It does cross your mind when that steel is over you that if that plate dog fails you will probably die or be severely injured.
So, normally we would roll up at 2:30 but we are working 10 hours a day so we keep going until 4:30. We are allowed to go get a Coke or something around 2;30 or 3:00 and of course, we can get water or take a bathroom break any time work allows. Sometime you have to plan these things if you are working in the air or on a lift. So, same ol' work until about 4:15 and then it's time to get tools up. we usually have quite a bit of stuff out so it takes a while to get everything rolled up and locked up in our tool boxes. Then we go sign out and leave at 4:30. You do not leave before then even if you have your stuff up.
I know this sounds like a rough day for most people, and it is hard, but we have fun. We joke around when we can and tease each other. Sometimes there are down times waiting for one of the cranes or such and we can rest them. It does take some getting used to though and many people don't like the work. I don't know, we all have a good camaraderie and help each other as much as we tease each other too. I am fortunate to work with a great bunch of guys.