The watchful eye of the water man 3 minutes spent reading
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The watchful eye of the water man

Christopher Eberl
Christopher Eberl is editorially responsible for the topics on the blog as well as for the apprentice website. With his stories he provides deep insights into the diverse world of the voestalpine Group.

The role of a water man at voestalpine is both responsible and interesting. At voestalpine the water man is responsible for cooling and monitoring the blast furnace.

Wassermann Peter LehnerThe blast furnace forms the heart of every crude steel manufacturing facility, and reaches internal temperatures of up to 2,300°C. And this is precisely why the water man plays such an important role. The blast furnace has a system of cooling pipes to protect it from overheating, and can be cooled with nitrogen or simply water. That’s why the water man regularly inspects the blast furnace for any glowing or hot spots. In a worst case scenario, overheating could lead to a blast furnace breakout, allowing material to escape. This would have severe consequences, and not just economic ones. As well as monitoring the temperature, the water man also takes care of the pipes which blow the various reduction agents, including coke, crude oil, tar or plastic, into the blast furnace. The pipes can become blocked or leaky, and therefore must be exchanged as quickly as possible.

A career which relies on the sensesWater Man

During his inspection rounds, the water man must be able to rely on his senses. Monitoring to ensure flawless operations depends largely on sight and hearing. A peephole enables him to look into the furnace and draw the correct conclusions. For example, defective pipes emit distinctive whistles or blasts and, with years of experience, the water man can locate them quickly. But some technical help is still required. The water man often uses an infrared camera which identifies the hottest spots in the blast furnace. After an inspection round, which involves climbing many stairs, the water man returns to his desk. Here he must document each round, entering the details into a computer program and adding images of potential danger zones where appropriate. Nothing is left to chance – precision and concentration are the water man’s core competencies.


Eine Wärmebildkamera ünterstützt den Wassermann bei der ArbeitNot an officially recognized skilled trade

The job of water man is not a typical skilled trade in Austria. Water men come from a variety of backgrounds. They only have one thing in common: the relevant training in an iron or metalwork trade. At voestalpine, many water men are trained production technicians, for example. A prospective water man goes through an 18-day familiarization phase during which he learns the first and most important actions and steps. Ongoing training and an interest in the subject make the job unique and fascinating for every water man.

Christopher Eberl

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