Imagine manufacturing factories without the steam technology. Aside from providing heat to businesses and residential buildings, steam is a great energy source for industrial processes such as for powering machines and equipment. Boilermakers are responsible for the assembly, construction, repair and maintenance of stationary steam boilers and boiler house auxiliaries. Following blueprints, they align plate sections or structures to assemble boiler frame tanks or vats through various tools such as hand and power tools, dogs, levels, plumb bobs, turnbuckles or wedges.
Apart from direct cleaning of boilers and boiler furnaces, boilermakers also assist in testing assembled vessels as well as perform physical inspection and repair of boiler fittings, such as automatic-control mechanisms, auxiliary machines, water columns, regulators, and safety valves. As closed vats and boilers usually last a long time, boilermakers regularly perform maintenance by upgrading its parts.
In addition, boilermakers provide assistance on installation and repair of air pollution equipment, blast furnaces, storage and process tanks, smokestacks, and water treatment plants. They could install refractory brick and other heat-resistant materials in pressure vessels or fireboxes, while some boilermakers specialize on mounting and maintaining huge pipes utilized in dams to direct water to and from hydroelectric power generation turbines.
Why Become a Boilermaker
In general, job prospects are favorable due to the expected large number of boilermakers retiring in the coming years. Even though the job remains physically demanding, aspiring boilermakers with welding background and certification would have better job opportunities. Boilermakers in manufacturing have more stable employment compared to those in the construction industry. Apprentices generally start at 60 percent of the rate paid to fully trained boilermakers. Companies give salary increases as they learn to do more duties and tasks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a projected growth of four percent for the employment of boilermakers from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Salary reports indicate that the mean annual wage for boilermakers would be approximately $60,170 as of May 2014.
Boilermaker Work Environment
Due to the location and large sizes of boilers, storage tanks, and dams, boilermakers often work at dangerous heights, and mostly outdoors that expose them to extreme cold and heat. Boilermakers could also work in confined stations inside boilers, tanks, or vats that are frequently dim, clammy, and poorly ventilated. To protect themselves from various injuries, boilermakers often wear hardhats, harnesses, protective clothing, earplugs, and safety glasses. In addition, when working inside enclosed spaces, boilermakers often must wear a respirator. Common injuries that occur to boilermakers include burns from acetylene torches, cuts from power grinders, and muscle strains from lifting heavy parts and tools, and falls from ladders or large vessels. Virtually all boilermakers work full time and might experience extended periods of overtime particularly during scheduled maintenance as equipment temporarily shut down. Overtime work could be necessary when meeting construction or production deadlines, specifically during the fall and spring seasons. Several boilermakers must travel to worksites and live away from their houses for long periods.