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Getting to Know the 'Bridge Brothers': Robert

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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Each week, PaintSquare Daily News, in partnership with 4th Coast Productions, will be introducing you to a different worker featured in the new documentary Bridge Brothers. This week’s interview subject is Robert Henriques; Robert, whose primary job is blasting, works with the Corcon Inc. crew that worked the Commodore Barry Bridge and Walt Whitman Bridge jobs featured in the film. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Robert Henriques
Courtesy of 4th Coast Productions

"After work, how we gel, that’s what really touches me," Henriques says.

PaintSquare Daily News: Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in the bridge-painting industry?

Henriques: I grew up in Jamaica, and I got into bridge painting as a summer job originally. I wasn’t afraid of heights; I liked climbing. The first time I went up 50 feet, I showed no fear, and I realized this was the job for me. Sandblasting was my favorite part of the job. I got into the union within a week, and I just kept doing it. I love it, and I’ve been doing it 20 years now.

Do you think you’re unique in loving it, or do you think a lot of the workers doing this work really enjoy it?

I’m a little bit unique. I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s what I’m known for. When anyone needs a good blaster—“Call Rob. He can do it.” But now that I’m getting a little older, my backup plan is to become an inspector, get into the engineering part of it.

Your specialty is blasting; do you do a little of everything on a given job, though?

Oh yeah. Painting, rigging, but when the blasting starts, they put me on right away. Me, Damon [Arapkiles], Cowboy [Ceranto] and a few others, we’re known as good blasters for the company. They know they’re going to get great production if we’re blasting.

You work long hours for long stretches; what’s your life like outside of work, when you get some time off?

I live in Houston, Texas, which is underwater right now—fortunately, my home is OK. I go home every few weeks for a weekend, spend a few days. In the winter time, I don’t work at all. My end date is usually December 15, and I don’t work for about three months. In March, I’ll start working again. I don’t like working in the winter time; it’s cold. You get frostbite up there. I think it’s dangerous. When I get my NACE 2 (inspector certification), I can do inspection work in the winter time.

What were your thoughts when you first heard the Bridge Brothers crew would be filming your crew on the job?

I was excited! Bridge painting is not the kind of work you see in the classified ads, in the unemployment section—I think it’s good to get the message out there, because it’s not the most popular job in the world.

What’s your experience when you tell someone outside the industry that you paint bridges? How do people react?

They say, “What?” I have to elaborate a little about what I do. I climb bridges, I paint bridges. They say, “You’re just out there with a little paint brush?” They think it’s like you’re a house painter, but you’re not.

Did the film live up to what you hoped for it?

I think it did live up to it. You really get into the core of what we do. The rigging, the containment, all the aspects of what we do. The environmental stuff, the safety stuff, the lead issues, carcinogens. You really have to get into everything.

Did you have a specific favorite part of the film, something that you felt really represented your day-to-day life?

I liked the parts that showed after work, what we do—we have fun, we have barbecues, we drink together, we eat together, we tell stories. One of the guys brought his wife here; she wanted to meet all of us—I told her, I take care of him when he’s away from you. We socialize—a lot of us watched the fight last week, the Mayweather fight. After work, how we gel, that’s what really touches me.

Bridge Brothers runs 1 hour and 40 minutes, and is available as a DVD/Blu-Ray set, which comes with a 24-page booklet. The film is available via Technology Publishing Company's TPC Store.


Tagged categories: Blasting; Bridge Brothers; Bridges; Corcon Inc.; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades

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