Steelworkers are a type of construction worker who are responsible for fabricating and erecting steel building components. They use steel and iron beams, girders and trusses to form the skeleton of a building or bridge structure, and may also install metal components to reinforce concrete or masonry components. Depending on the type of work they perform, steelworkers may also be known as ironworkers or metalworkers. A steelworker may work outdoors on construction sites, or indoors in a metal fabrication plant.
Before steel is erected, it must first be cut to size and pre-drilled for installation. These tasks are performed indoors in a steel plant or welding shop. The steel is then delivered to a construction site, where steelworkers use cranes and derricks to move and place the steel. Once it is placed in the correct position, it is bolted or welded in place by a steel worker who has been trained in this area. Because they often work many stories in the air, installers typically wear safety harnesses and other gear designed to minimize the risk of falls.
Those looking to pursue a career as a steelworker should be comfortable working around heavy equipment, which can be loud, dirty and dangerous. Steelworkers must be comfortable working at great heights, and also under all types of weather conditions. Like any construction worker, the steelworker must take proper safety precautions at all times to avoid injury. To minimize risks, steelworkers often don't work on site during rain or snow, as precipitation can make the steel too slippery.
Most steelworkers work their way up in the industry through an apprenticeship program. Many of these programs are run by local labor unions, which are widespread in the steel industry. To be accepted into an apprenticeship program, applicants generally require a high school diploma. The apprentice will work for three to four years at a reduced rate of pay, and will often attend classes to learn about the industry. Once he has built his skills to a sufficient level, the apprentice becomes a journeyman and pay rates will usually increase.
Future steelworkers can prepare for a career in the industry by learning to read blueprints, or by taking classes on construction materials and methods. It is also helpful to understand the various types of tools and equipment used in steel work, and to be able to safely used these tools. Any education in construction, engineering, or math can also help those looking to become steelworkers.