Keeping Shipbuilders Safe
Published April 12, 2022
Longtime shipbuilder Bill Berger, an O43 mechanical foreman, leads a crew of shipbuilders tasked with working on equipment across the North Yard at Newport News Shipbuilding.
“We work on all the production equipment in the North Yard,” he said. “We’re climbing on presses, climbing in pits, going into confined spaces and going into blast cabinets. We’re all over everything.”
In this line of work, injuries are always a possibility. That’s why Berger – who ruptured two discs in his back as a craftsman in the 1990s – is particularly focused on his crew’s safety.
“I don’t want anybody getting hurt because I’ve been hurt, and it’s not fun,” he said. “I tell my people if there are any questions at all, just stop the job and come get me or call me. Sometimes, I’ll have a line of people in my office – which is good with me because that means they’re asking questions and they aren’t out there doing something that could cause an injury.”
Berger’s system seems to be successful. It has been more than nine years since a shipbuilder on his crew has been injured on the job. He credits good communication among the team and the fact that they all work well together for the achievement.
“I just take care of my people,” he said. “Some of them have new babies. My daughter just had our grandson seven months ago, so I know life outside the shipyard is important.”