Exploring Manufacturing CareersIron Worker

In our educational series, we explore different careers in manufacturing.

Iron and steel continues to be the most widely used metallic materials in buildings, bridges, and other structures for many industries such as manufacturing, automotive and construction. There are two known ironworkers in the industry, namely the structural iron and steel workers, and the reinforcing iron and rebar workers. Aside from erecting metal storage tanks and assembling prefabricated metal buildings, structural iron and steel workers are capable of raising, placing and uniting iron or steel girders, columns, and other structural members to form completed structures or structural frameworks. Meanwhile, reinforcing iron and rebar workers are responsible for positioning and securing steel bars or mesh in concrete forms in order to reinforce concrete using a variety of blowtorches, fasteners, hand tools, and rod-bending machines.

Cut to its proper size with holes drilled for bolts and numbered for assembly, structural steel generally arrives at the construction site ready for installation. After the installation, ironworkers need to check for alignment using plumb bobs, laser equipment, or levels. Although most of the work involves erecting new structures, some ironworkers also may help in the demolition, decommissioning, and rehabilitation of older buildings and bridges.

After determining the quantities, sizes, shapes, and locations of reinforcing rods from blueprints, sketches, or oral instructions, reinforcing iron and rebar workers cut rods to required lengths using acetylene torches, bar cutters, metal shears, or hacksaws as well as bend steel rods with rod bending machines or hand tools and weld them with arc-welding equipment.

Why Become an Iron Worker

Employers generally require high school diploma or equivalent for entry-level ironworkers. Most ironworkers learn their trade through three-year or four-year apprenticeship, but some learn on the job. Welding certifications from American Welding Society plus rigging and crane signaling will definitely improve job prospects for ironworkers and may result in higher pay.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a projected growth of twenty two percent for the employment of ironworkers from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Future construction of commercial and industrial buildings where steel and iron remain to be a significant material should create additional demand for ironworkers as well as the increasing number of older highways and bridges that need to be rehabilitate or replace. Salary reports show that the mean annual wage for the employed structural iron and steel workers would be approximately $53,140 while reinforcing iron and rebar workers would be $54,810 as of May 2014.

Iron Worker Work Environment

Ironworkers perform physically demanding and dangerous work, often working at great heights especially when building supporting structure for bridges and for commercial, industrial, and tall residential buildings. Safety harnesses should reduce the risk of falling for ironworkers assigned in construction sites. Virtually all ironworkers work full time but they should not work at great heights during wet, icy, or extremely windy conditions. There are several work-related deaths recorded each year due to falls for ironworkers so they should be very aware of their surroundings and equipped with protective gears. In addition, ironworkers may experience cuts from sharp metal edges and equipment, as well as muscle strains and other injuries from moving and guiding heavy structural steel and iron.

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