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Lodge 128 takes on massive tower removal

Boilermakers rigged part of a 166-foot tower that suffered a structural failure in Sarnia, Ontario. Members of L-128, L-555 and L-73 removed the tower safely.

LOCAL 128 (TORONTO) STEPPED it up when a 166-foot tall, 16-foot diameter naphtha stripper tower experienced a structural failure at the Imperial Oil Limited plant in Sarnia, Ontario. In April, during one of the largest shutdowns at the area’s refineries, the tower failed approximately 60 feet up and fell directly onto the fin fans at that same height.

While no one was hurt, it was a very precarious and potentially dangerous situation that had to be remedied immediately.

Tom Vansickle, Boilermaker general foreman and industrial contractor at Kel-Gor Limited, knew just the workers he wanted to handle such a big job. He called Dale Quinn, business rep in the L-128 Sarnia office, who quickly rounded up a crew of 28 workers from L-128, L-555 (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and L-73 (Halifax, Nova Scotia) who labored 24/7 through May to remove the tower.

In a letter of recognition to Quinn and L-128, Vansickle wrote, “I said I need a crew of riggers that can handle large rigging. At the time, everyone was working. But you found me a crew.”

Because Vansickle is a Boilermaker as well, he added, “We spoke the same language and understood each other. Soon it was like they knew us and we [knew] them for most of our careers. The months of April and May gave us record rainfall. These guys never left and went home. They totally understood the importance of this job. They all showed up every day and WORKED.”

Vansickle was impressed with the Boilermakers’ resilience and problem-solving skills. He recounts one instance when the rain fell so hard that hoarding didn’t work to keep the shell dry during welding. One resourceful Boilermaker held a propane torch on the shell above the welder, and that did the trick. “This job is what makes me PROUD to be part of the Boilermaker family,” he continued. “Thanks for the assistance.”

Gary L. Lott, client company supervisor, also praised the contractor and crew. “We asked Kel-Gor for their BEST crew…You know, we got it!” he wrote. “[They] got up to speed fast and performed multiple excellent and SAFE lifts for Imperial Oil Limited. [The crew] displayed professionalism on the job that was observed and praised by several responsible parties. Please pass along that Imperial Oil Limited not only thanks you, but your entire work crew for a safe demo job,” he concluded.

Job Steward Derek Wyld, a seasoned member of L-128, summed it up well: “When the Boilermakers appeared on the job, we knew we had a challenge—but that’s what Boilermakers do. We know what we have to do, and we do it because we’re proud.”