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Henry Taylor
Henry Taylor


Background: Construction boilermakers may be exposed to a variety of substances, including asbestos and welding fumes. Past studies of boilermakers have shown increases in mortality from lung cancer and asbestosis and radiographic changes consistent with asbestos exposure.


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Methods: Respiratory symptoms, lung function, and radiographic changes were compared for 102 actively employed boilermakers with 20 or more years of union membership and 100 telephone workers. Posteroanterior chest radiographs were evaluated by two experienced chest physicians, with a third arbitrating disagreed films. Union members were further categorized as boilermakers (n = 50) or welders (n = 52), based on longest service. Lung health was also compared with employment in a number of work sectors for time, and time-weighted exposure to dust and fumes.

Results: Boilermakers had more respiratory symptoms than telephone workers, but lung function did not differ. Radiographic changes were more common among the boilermakers (20% with any change, 8% circumscribed, and 9% diffuse pleural thickening). None of the boilermakers had small radiographic opacities. Several symptoms suggestive of bronchial responsiveness were associated with fume exposures in the gas and oil industry. Workers whose longest service was as a boilermaker demonstrated more symptoms than did welders. FEV1, FEV1/FVC, FEF25-75, and FEF50 were significantly lower among boilermakers compared with welders.

Some workers are considered boilermakers, but do not actually work on boilers. Those who consider themselves boilermakers may have the job description of a blacksmith, forger, shipbuilder or some other occupation.

A boilermaker must be able to work in uncomfortable environments. Many times, boilermakers work in dark, damp, noisy and poorly ventilated areas. Since they frequently work at heights, boilermakers need to be comfortable wearing fall protection equipment.

Boilers are made out of steel, iron, copper, or stainless steel. Manufacturers are increasingly automating the production of boilers to improve the quality of these vessels. However, boilermakers still use many tools in making or repairing boilers.

For example, they use hand and power tools or flame cutting torches to cut pieces for a boiler. To bend the pieces into shape and accurately line them up, boilermakers use plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles. If the plate sections are very large, large cranes lift the parts into place. Once they have the parts lined up, they use metalworking machinery and other tools to remove irregular edges so the parts fit together properly. They join the parts by bolting, welding, or riveting them together.

In addition to installing and maintaining boilers and other vessels, boilermakers help erect and repair air pollution equipment, blast furnaces, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, and smokestacks. Boilermakers also install refractory brick and other heat-resistant materials in fireboxes or pressure vessels. Some install and maintain the huge pipes used in dams to send water to and from hydroelectric power generation turbines.

They often work outdoors in all types of weather, including extreme heat and cold. Dams, boilers, storage tanks, and pressure vessels are usually large. Therefore, boilermakers often work at great heights. When working on a dam, for example, they may be hundreds of feet above the ground. A boilermaker can also work in cramped quarters inside boilers, vats, or tanks that are often dark, damp, and poorly ventilated. 041b061a72

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