If you have ever been to a construction site, whether it is private or civil, you have likely seen steel erector companies at work without knowing who they are. They are most likely to be found working around beams, scaffolds, and such. They are an essential part of any construction projects, whether it is new construction or the rehabilitation of an old one.
They are part of a larger group of workers known as structural iron and steelworkers. Often, steel erectors are also called ironworkers. Here is a comprehensive look at what they do, what their work involves, and how to get into this career.
What do steel erectors do?
Steel erectors primarily work on assembling and installing construction structural components made of steel and iron. This definition reflects the range of work and functions they perform at a construction site. They work to install and fix prefabricated steel structures like scaffolds, beams, girders, columns, and pipework.
Steel erectors create the frames on which constructions are built. Their work is diverse, and beyond erecting structures, some will also be involved in demolishing, rehabilitation and decommissioning of other structures and buildings around. Their knowledge of how steel structures are built makes them an asset when it comes to demolishing them.
When working on big projects like skyscrapers, steel erectors will be responsible for performing duties such as assembling the derricks and cranes, which make moving materials and equipment around the site easier. These technicians also erect the frames, connect the columns, rafters, and beams while others assemble precast walls. Steel erectors need to be comfortable working with tools such as spud wrenches and driftpins.
They also develop skills to become adept in using a variety of materials to support the concrete. The three main materials are:
- Reinforcing steel bars or rebars. These are used on everything from highways and bridges to buildings.
- Welded wire reinforcing is made up of wires welded into grids rods with narrow diameters. It is used to reinforce concrete.
- Cables used to reinforce concrete are used more in creating bridges, arenas, and parking garages largely because they allow building supports to be placed further apart.
Steel erector work
Steel erector work is both dangerous and physically demanding. There is plenty of rigging, carrying ladders, and other equipment as well as climbing. You also may work in intemperate weather and at to heights. For this reason, physical fitness is an integral part of steel erectors work.
Another crucial element of this work is the training and practice of health and safety procedures. You will be required to wear personal protective equipment, including safety helmets and protective footwear, which are a staple, and other task-specific items like a safety harness when climbing.
In general, steel erectors work starts even before the commencement of construction work. They have to set up the supporting structures like scaffolds that the other teams and they will later use. As the construction progresses, they have to add to the required scaffolding and install the required decking.
Ironworkers are also responsible for the operation of the mobile cranes and other related machinery in their area. Since they influence the pace at which construction happens, it can be a high-pressure job with strict deadlines.
Work is usually distributed over 40 hours from Monday to Friday, and the workers are organized in small teams, which often work in shifts. Start and finish hours are also dependent on seasons and daylight hours.
In case of deadlines, working overtime may be necessary, and this may see work spill into evenings and over weekends.
Steel erector job description
The job description of steel erectors is varied, given the nature of their work. Part of the duties and expectations of the job include;
- Read and understand blueprints, and technical plans done by architects and engineers
- Plan and execute the project assembly
- Use work machinery like tower cranes to lift and position steel components
- Operate mobile elevated work platforms to gain access to sections of the structure off the ground
- Install horizontal and vertical cladding system as well roofs
- Assemble and install personnel lifts and hoists, to ferry items for other technicians on site like electricians and plumbers.
- Installing and laying the necessary metal decking while at the same time fixing the edge rails and safety netting during the structure’s construction.
- Unload and stack prefabricated iron and steel so that it can be slung to an accessible position
- Connect the various iron and steel components with bolts, welding, and wires
- Use lasers, tag lines, and levers and plumb bobs to align reinforcing steel
- Creating and installing steel frameworks
- Cutting and shaping steel
- Operating hand and power tools
Performing all these duties with them requires precision calls for a certain aptitude and skills. The following skills help make one an excellent steel erector. They include;
- Excellent practical skills for using the tools and equipment like proper eye-hand coordination
- Good use of logic and problem-solving skills
- Excellent fitness and agility with proper balance
- Good listening skills and uptake of verbal and written instructions
- Organized and methodical approach to work
- Excellent awareness of your surroundings and identification of potential risks
- Comfortable with heights and excellent depth perception
- Ability to work and cooperate in a team
- Enjoy working outdoors and high-pressure work.
- Proper understanding of safety and health regulations
Training for steel erector job
There is no specific course that offers training and skills for being a steel erector. Many in this profession learn through apprenticeship. An ideal candidate for an apprenticeship should be over 18 years of age and in possession of high school education, preferably with an aptitude for mathematics and having good communication skills.
You will also need to pass a substance use test and be physically capable of performing the tasks. The trade is learned over a three to four-year period and will combine technical training and job training.
As you advance, you may take up specialist training for certain tasks on the site, ranging from welding, modification, and fabrication work. There are licenses and certifications offered in these specialists’ fields, even in rigging and crane signaling. The more specialist knowledge you acquire, the higher your pay, and career prospects.
With the right experience, skills, and organizational ability, you can rise to be a supervisor, site and project manager, or even a trainer and leader in safety and health in the construction field. You can also branch off into self-employment.