Eric Brugeman has been a union ironworker for over 10 years. As if that didn’t make him sweat enough, he is also the father to an adorable, almost 4 year old daughter. When he is not unloading and stacking, he runs Eric Brugeman Design, building contemporary wood/metal composite furniture.
It varies from day to day.
Predominantly we erect steel, build structures, columns, beams, unload trucks and climb on the buildings. I also weld with professional equipment like the Hypertherm Powermax model 30xp and, of course, various pieces of safety gear as regularly working with high temperatures can be particularly dangerous. We work on all kinds of commercial steel frame buildings of varying heights and varying footprints.
I drink lots of water. In the summer it’s impossible to stay cool! The iron heats up quite a bit. This summer I started to wear old long sleeve dress shirts because the material keeps the sun off my skin and helps keep me cool a little bit.
I like to build furniture and rock climb and I enjoy hanging out with my little girl.
This story really happened to an old boss of mine. He was sliding down a tube column, basically just a square tube, and he forgot that there was a knife plate – a connection – about 30 inches off the ground. Just as he remembered, he said “uh oh”, and tried to push off of the column but was already sliding and didn’t get out of the way in time. He ended up ripping his scrotum in half. They were able to put him back together, and he’s had a kid since then. Not only did he show everyone what it looked like after it healed, but he stood on top of a table to do so.
Every day is a barrel of laughs (sarcastically).
When you’re connecting iron beams you have to align the beams with the holes in the columns, and in order to check and see if the holes were aligned, you usually use a wrench. So this one guy instead used his finger. And then signaled for the crane to come up, and it cut his finger off. No matter what, no one’s finger is stronger than a crane!
Nothing hellacious, but I’ve got stuck in a couple of pinch points and had a few near misses.
Once I was working on a building, and we had these diagonal tubes (wind braces), I was on the bottom, my partner was on the top, and it came loose and pinched my chest in between the brace and the column. The brace got me in front and the column was on my back and I got jammed up between the two of them.
It’s quite dangerous. You constantly have to pay attention, you can’t fall asleep on the job, that’s for sure.