This November at shopping center Itis’ Tallinnanaukio Square, there were familiar faces on the surface on the surface treatment site. In attendance are brothers Ari and Kari Kuusisto, Keijo Nordling, Jari Juhola and, as supervisor, Karri Lempinen.

The surface treatment work proceeds quickly, yet with great care.

“We graduated from vocational school in Rauma only a year apart from each other, me in 1985 and Kai in 1986. We were eager to work, and at the time shipyards in Rauma and Pori were building various large vessels, which meant an abundance of work,” Ari Kuusisto remembers.

In the 1980’s, surface treatment workers learned the job simply by doing it. Many started out as auxiliary workers at shipyards or in Mäntyluonto oil rig projects, and learned surface treatment procedures along the way. The company then known as Rauma-Repola, and its engineering school, were also involved in training new professionals for the field, and Kai Kuusisto is one of them.

“When we were younger, we used to work a lot in section paintshops. There we did surface treatment work on massive ship sections, and the job was physically demanding. Sometimes we had to crawl into extremely small spaces,” explains Ari Kuusisto.

The two brothers have been working together for over 30 years. At times, strong words may fly at the work site, but they always reach a mutual understanding. Ari says that nowadays it is Kai who has a shorter temper, whereas in the past it used to be Ari who raised his voice first.

“We pride ourselves in doing our job as well as possible. If one of us is struggling at work, the other will help him out. Together, we are a pretty efficient duo,” says Kai, who gets praise from Ari for seeing even long projects as entities. Ari feels that he himself is most comfortable with sand blasting tasks.

A travel job works with the right attitude

Of all the FSP members working in Itis, the most experienced is Keijo “Kepu” Nordling with 37 years of experience. He, too, has worked at the shipyards of Rauma-Repola and Hollming, and Mäntyluoto is also a familiar work environment.

“The largest project I have been involved in so far was most definitely the surface treatment work we did on the Höga Kusten bridge in Sweden. There we surface treated 50,000 square metres of steel. I started out my career as an auxiliary worker and by doing paintbrush jobs, and later moved on to spray painting and sand blasting. The latter I still love doing. It is an independent job that requires a steady and calm approach, and you also have time for your own thoughts,” says Nordling.

Jari Juhola started his career in 1999, also in Pori. After a painter program in vocational school, he started working at shipyards, and his first employer was YIT. Along with the other professionals in this project, Juhola was also transferred from YIT to FSP with their current employment conditions in 2001.

“I drove a forklift at the shipyard, and progressed gradually to coating and spray painting works. There has always been work for me, even though the shipyard business came to an end a few years ago. It is important to have enough work, a flexible employer and great colleagues, and for these reasons I have always enjoyed working at FSP,” Juhola says.

The others agree that having a reliable and steady employer is crucial. The job description has of course changed since the beginning of their careers: the more experienced and skilled a surface treatment worker is, the more extensive is also his working environment. In practice, this means that these five men are almost constantly on the road.

“Especially now, a travel job is a worthwhile alternative. Our employer ensures that we have decent accommodations for the week – unlike the steel barracks of the past – and clear schedules for each day. We work overtime whenever it is required, and there is flexibility on both sides. Neither party keeps checking the clock when a job must be completed up to a certain point,” says Ari Kuusisto

Occupational safety at the core

Things at worksites are not slowed down by unnecessary hierarchy, either. The Kuusisto brothers explain that sometimes “we just watch and Lempinen does the work, in complete and mutual understanding.” Karri Lempinen has as much as 17 working years at FSP under his belt.

In that time, changes have taken place also in occupational safety. In the 1980’s, the use of personal protective equipment was rather loose, but nowadays there is no chance of even visiting a worksite without safety goggles, protective footwear, cut-resistant gloves and a helmet, or getting up on the scaffolding without a harness.

“We prefer it this way,” the men say in unison. In addition to Mäntyluoto, one of the biggest projects in Ari and Kai Kuusisto’s and Keijo Nordling’s careers has been the 135-metre-long M/S Oslofjord, which was given a general overhaul at the Rauma shipyard in the spring of 2014.

The old paint coat was removed all the way from the masts to waterline, and the vessel was cleaned and given a new coating. At the same time, new cabins were built on the vessel. The vessel was transferred by sea from Rauma to Denmark, where it used to operate as a cruiser. The job was made challenging by the tight schedule and the fact that the entire surface treatment project was more extensive than originally planned.

Kai Kuusisto’s son has also worked as a summer employee at FSP. FSP would have gladly extended the contract, but Kuusisto’s son had to enter military service. Kai Kuusisto does not want to start guessing, whether or not his son will follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Studies first, then worklife,” he concludes.