Reinforcing and structural metal and iron workers are responsible for placing and installing steel or iron columns, girders or other types of construction materials in order to form bridges, buildings or other structures. They may also position and then secure mesh or steel bars in forms of concrete to reinforce the concrete that is utilized in the construction of bridges, buildings, tunnels, highways or other structures.
Structural and Reinforcing Iron and Metal Workers Job Responsibilities
Other job responsibilities may include repairing and renovating older structures and buildings. While the main type of metal that is used in this industry is steel, workers may also be called ironworkers. In some cases ironworkers make the structural metal in shops known as fabricating shops.
Prior to beginning construction, ironworkers must build steel frames and then assemble derricks and cranes in order to move reinforcing bars, structural steel, lumber, concrete and other construction equipment and materials around the site. After this has been finished, the workers can then begin connecting beams, steel columns and girders based on instructions and blueprints from superintendents and supervisors. Reinforcing rods, structural steel and ornamental iron typically arrive at the construction site ready to be erected and cut to the right size, with holes pre-drilled for bolts.
Ironworkers may also unload and then stack the steel so that it can be easily hoisted when it is needed. In order to lift the steel, ironworkers may attach cables that are known as slings to the steel. One worker will use hand signals to direct the hoist operator while another worker holds a tag line or rope that is attached to the steel to keep it from swinging. The derrick or crane then lifts the steel into place on the framework. At that point ironworkers that are known as connectors place the steel into position.
Rebar and reinforcing ironworkers, also sometimes known as rod busters, are responsible for setting reinforcing bars, known as rebar, into the forms that hold will hold the concrete. They must then fasten the rebar together with the use of wire. While materials typically arrive on the site ready to use, ironworkers must sometimes cut the materials using metal shears or sometimes acetylene torches. Ornamental ironworkers are responsible for installing handrails, stairs and curtain walls as well as other types of metal once the building has been finished.
Reinforcing and structural metal and iron workers typically work outside. While those workers that work on the ground may work in inclement weather, those who work at significant heights usually will not work in conditions that are extremely windy, icy or wet.
The employment outlook for this occupation is expected to grow approximately as fast as all other occupations, expanding by about 12% through the year 2018. New employment opportunities will be created through the replacement, maintenance and rehabilitation of older bridges, highways and buildings. Other employment openings will stem from the need to replacement ironworkers who may either retire or leave the occupation. The number of openings in this industry can fluctuate from one year to another based on economic conditions. Workers within this industry may experience times of unemployment due to periodic decreases of overall construction levels. Employment openings may be more abundant during the summer and spring months.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Structural and Reinforcing Iron and Metal Workers Training and Education Requirements
Many workers may learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship, but others may learn while on the job. Employers typically prefer to hire workers who have completed an apprenticeship program that consists of three to four years of classroom instruction and on the job training. Apprenticeship programs are commonly administered by a committee that is comprised of representatives from local unions such as the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Most apprenticeship programs and employers prefer for candidates to have graduated from high school. Common coursework for apprentices include math, blueprint reading, rigging, structural erecting, welding, reinforcing, safety training and assembling.
Ironworkers must be a minimum of 18 years old. They must also be in good physical shape due to the fact that the materials used in this industry are typically bulky and heavy. They should also have good eyesight, balance, agility and depth perception.
Structural and Reinforcing Iron and Metal Workers Salary and Wages
In 2008, structural steel and iron workers had median hourly earnings of $20.68. An apprentice will typically start out earning approximately 60% of the rate that is paid to a journey level worker. Employer and geographic location can affect wages. Wages may also be affected by economic downturns and bad weather.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Structural and Reinforcing Iron and Metal Workers Certifications
Ironworkers who finish apprenticeships and become certified for the journey level will typically receive higher earnings and have an increased opportunity for promotions. Workers who complete experience and education requirements may be certified through the American Welding Society.
Structural and Reinforcing Iron and Metal Workers Professional Associations
Approximately 40% of all workers employed in this trade belong to unions, such as the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union. Other professional associations include the Associate Builders and Contractors.