Steel Coatings Articles

Exploring the Wondrous World of Steel

Lead photo courtesy of PPG

Steel is among the more common substrates a coatings contractor works with, whether its working on commercial or industrial projects. As such, the challenges that come with maintaining steel and preventing corrosion, as daunting as they may be, are well known within the industry.

“Corrosion, especially of steel substrates, is a fairly easy-to-predict process,” said Davies Hood, president of Induron. “There are also many effective ways to minimize its effect and slow its progress. Because of these solutions and the fact that so much of our existing infrastructure is built utilizing steel, I think that the future of the steel surfaces industry is very bright from an opportunity standpoint. As long as we continue to build with steel, we’ll need to proactively protect that steel from inevitable corrosion.”

Some industry experts see opportunities for the steel industry to rebound from the economic standstill facing many industries in the past few years.

“Personally, I see a year of growth in both 2023 and 2024 as the industry continues to heal from COVID and our economy is fueled by infrastructure projects and new technology,” said Ken Rossy, president of HoldTight Solutions. “Specifically, within the corrosion protective industry, I also see growth, new technology especially in the equipment industry that will continue to make a mature industry more efficient.”

Other experts believe that market forces, along with recent technological innovations, have impacted the world of steel forever.

“The steel surfaces industry, like most of the corrosion and construction industry, is experiencing issues with finding enough qualified workers,” said Bob Dahlstrom, CEO of Apellix. “This will become more acute as infrastructure with delayed maintenance comes online. Compounding the lack of trained workers is the fact that a large percentage of the current workforce is expected to retire within the next few years. Who’s going to do all these jobs?”

“One thing that can help is robotics,” Dahlstrom added. “Robotic systems that can clean or prep steel surfaces, then coat them, and also measure the coating and steel thickness can help current workers be more productive. By allowing robots to do the dull, dirty, dangerous work, people can focus on the higher value aspects of the job.”

Along with company chiefs Hood, Rossy, and Dahlstrom, CoatingsPro Magazine spoke to various experts from across the industry to learn about the various technologies, tools, and techniques utilized across the numerous phases and sectors of steel jobs.

Having Some Standards

Any contractor worth their salt makes sure to keep abreast of material and equipment specifications, along with any relevant industry standards. There are a variety of associations and other organizations around the world that contribute to the specifications surrounding steel.

Formed in 2021 as a combination of legacy organizations NACE International and SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings, the Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP) is an invaluable resource with regard to standards, best practices, and a host of other information.

The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) released the latest version of its flagship standard, “Specification for Structural Steel Buildings,” also known as American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/AISC 360-22. This document, which supersedes ANSI/AISC 360-16, serves as the foundation for the organization’s forthcoming 16th edition of the Steel Construction Manual. AISC published the new manual in August 2023.

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) released its 2022 Annual Report detailing its efforts and achievements in the areas of advocacy, technical resources, and marketing efforts on behalf of the construction industry segment focused on expanding the use of metal.

With respect to efforts by the industry to address the needs of contractors who use their products, Seal for Life Infrastructure Coatings developed the Infrastructure Coatings Group to provide a singular division addressing specific needs and technical support related to high-performance, liquid-applied coatings that address asset integrity and corrosion control for a wide range of industries.

“The foundation of the Infrastructure Coatings Group is to bring a wide variety of unique technologies together under one umbrella with one goal in mind — extending infrastructure lifetime,” said Will Conner, manager of marketing for Seal For Life Infrastructure Coatings. “Our coatings are designed to withstand abuse while protecting people and substrates in a wide variety of industries, such as petrochemical refining, paper mills, sugar mills, water and wastewater facilities, commercial construction, power generation, automotive manufacturing, shipbuilding, and food processing, among others.”

Staying Safe

On the 1980s TV television police drama “Hill Street Blues,” one of the reoccurring phrases was “let’s be careful out there.” While that line was a parting warning, it isn’t too much of a stretch to also apply it to contractors who work on a variety of substrates, including steel. Site challenges such as operating sharp and/or heavy equipment and working at heights are, more or less, unique to the profession — and as such, these contractors must be attuned to standards, specifications, guides, and other documentation that will help keep them safe.

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) is generally regarded as a leading resource for occupational safety and health conferences, education courses, industry standards, and networking opportunities. In addition, ASSP also publishes books and technical publications that cover a variety of workplace safety and health topics.

To that end, the organization recently published the third edition of its flagship Safety Professionals Handbook. Since the release of the first edition of the handbook in 2008, it has become a standard reference guide for safety professionals. The third edition covers such essential topics as regulatory guidance, cost analysis and budgeting, and hazardous materials handling. While the handbook doesn’t specifically relate to steel substrates, all who consult it may find it valuable given its diverse range of topics.

Another trusted source for worker safety knowledge and information, particularly as it pertains to personal protective equipment (PPE) standards, is the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA). The association has redesigned its website to meet the growing interest in occupational safety and solutions.

Billed in a recent news release as “THE online resource for information and insights about the equipment and technologies that keep workers safe,” the redesigned ISEA website now offers worker protections by product category, including performance standards, a listing of product group members, fact sheets, info graphics, selection guides, and regulations from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

And speaking of OSHA, the U.S. Department of Labor-run agency remains a source for training, outreach, education, and assistance on a host of working conditions. One of the organization’s primary remits is individual fall protection PPE such as lifelines, anchors, harnesses, and other related equipment.

Editor’s note: This is an updated excerpt from the roundup article within the 2023 Steel Surfaces Supplement. To read the complete story and supplement, please click here.

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