‘Come on Kid, Get out of the Way!’
Bob Rosso: Started in 1963 as a Pipefitter
On my first day, Benny Carpenter – he was a pipefitter, he’s 80 years old and he’s still here – he took us up and got us hardhats. Then they assigned you to work with somebody. I went up on a boat and the guy says to go off and get a tool. I couldn’t find my way out. And after I got out, I couldn’t get back. It was just mind-boggling. I had never seen anything like this.
We used to punch out on the hill. You’d run up and all the timecards would be on the wall. You’re there looking for your card and there’s guys behind you hollering and screaming at you, “Come on kid, get out of the way!” You get all panicked and you just run out, you know? The next day the guys say, “How come you didn’t punch out?” It was chaos.
We were working from boat to boat to boat to boat. They had so many of them lined up. You would stay on a boat for five or six months. Then you’d go to the next one and start all over again. We worked from 7:30 to 4. A half hour for lunch. I’d walk up the hill and get a grinder, or sometimes a woman was selling French fries on the corner. A lot of guys would go have a beer. The street would be packed.
You learned from the older people. You depended on that older guy to show you the tricks and pass on his old tools and homemade tools and stuff that he would use. The guys would make hammers and different pry bars and different tools to work with.
When I first came in I didn’t think about safety. If you went into a tank, you grabbed an air hose, a flashlight and you went into the tank and you did the job. Your boss knew you were in there and somebody working on the top might know.
We had some fatalities – one happened right after I got here. There was too much argon in the tank. The guy passed out and died.
Today the tank is tested prior to going in. We have tank-watchers. It’s not an OSHA requirement. It’s a requirement for us here. The union, we have five full-time safety reps per the contract and that’s all we do. The company has their safety reps too. It’s more proactive. It’s not someone did get hurt but someone could get hurt.