Painting apprentices keep pace with technology

Date: 
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Students at the Finishing Trades Institute are keeping up with the fast pace of technological change that has come to the industrial painting sector.

By Leslie Dyson

Students at the Finishing Trades Institute are keeping up with the fast pace of technological change that has come to the industrial painting sector.

While the training institute employs a virtual paint sprayer as much as possible because it is an environmentally responsible tool that saves gallons of paint each year, the FTI also features some of the most advanced equipment in Canada. The official opening of the 14,000 square foot addition to the now 40,000 square foot facility in Surrey took place on March 30.

The District Council 38 Joint Trade Society raised $4 million for construction and equipment that includes an abrasive blast tank, well ventilated spray booth, and Pleural Component Paint (PCP) System–used in the industrial painting sector. A new hazardous materials abatement training area is located on the mezzanine.

“This is what the future holds for the industrial sector,” said Instructor Chico Albino. “We want students to be able to use the equipment safely and proficiently so it’s like second nature. It’s labour intensive to set up and clean up the spray gun for example.”

Albino, a member of DC 38 since 1985 and an instructor for nine years said, “You have to look ahead or you’ll be left behind.” Training on this equipment will ensure that the skills of the students are in high demand. “It’s what we’re here for,” he said.

Business Agent Justin Chapman, the training institute’s industrial painting rep, explained that industrial painters are using constantly updated coatings for a wide variety of purposes. Many can’t be mixed the old-fashioned way, in buckets, because they are highly volatile and toxic and can dry in as little as eight seconds.

The PCP spray system allows mixing of components that dry quickly and require specific temperatures to be combined. The drums can be heated up to 130º before the coating is sent through the paint lines.

These high-performance coatings have many applications, from sealing the bottom of ships to preventing rust and adding strength and durability inside and outside pipes.

Chapman, a 10-year member of District Council 38, learned how to use all this equipment and gained wideranging experience while working for 8 years with Dynacore Coatings on jobsites such as the GVRD water pipeline, SkyTrain line, at the Imperial Oil terminals, and the Chevron refinery.

The institute’s circular abrasive blast room, is the first in North America and doubles as a confined-space training environment. It resembles the types of vessels that industrial painters are required to work inside. It is equipped with a fan system that allows the spent abrasive to be vacuumed up and filtered. Materials that can be reused are collected, and leftover paint and rust are redirected into 45-gallon drums for safe disposal.

Equipment is becoming more efficient and user friendly, Chapman said, “but coatings have changed the most. They are far superior and I expect this will continue. There’s always the ‘newest and greatest’ thing.”

As a result, efforts to protect workers and the public have been ramped up. “Safety has come a long way,” he said. Painters are often required to use fresh air supplied respirators rather than the cartridge models to protect them from a multitude of epoxies and urethanes. “You want to stay away as much as possible from them,” he said.

Before construction began, Chapman went to Business Manager Dave Holmes to say that he could come up with a better design for the abrasive blasting booth. Holmes told him to do the research and come up with a proposal. Chapman met with him a few days later.

“How much?” Holmes asked.

“Over $100,000,” came the reply. Holmes told the guests at the official opening that he tried to hide his surprise. He said he told the young business rep, “OK. But if it doesn’t work, you’re fired.” The guests laughed.

Chapman called suppliers and assembled all the components. The union has a policy of trying to source equipment and supplies from communities as close as possible to B.C. and he made sure supply companies had local reps who could provide support and troubleshoot as necessary.

The facility went up in just four months and was built without government funding. Holmes credited much of the success of the project to signatory contractor support. Contractors, District Council 38 members, and apprentices worked well together to ensure construction was completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Robert Kucheran, general vice president for the international union, thanked the contractors and said this is the third such training facility in Canada, although the FTI in Surrey is the most advanced.

Business Manager Dave Holmes said, “34 years ago, someone taught me my trade so I could have a good career.” Passing along skills and experience from member to member “is our philosophy and what we live by every day.”

The FTI trains and provides upgrading courses for painters, glaziers, water blasters, drywall finishers, hazmat workers, and interior systems mechanics. It is the only comprehensive glazing training facility in B.C.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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