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What does a Steeplejack do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A steeplejack is a skilled construction worker who performs installations, maintenance, and repairs on tall buildings and structures. He or she might work on church steeples, bell towers, skyscrapers, and other structures that require expert scaling procedures. Professionals use many different types of specialized equipment to perform repair jobs, including safety ropes, bosun's chairs, ladders, and scaffolds. Even when proper safety precautions are taken, the work of a steeplejack is still dangerous and requires a high level of confidence and skill. Most steeplejacks work for contracting companies that provide a wide range of services.

Steeplejacks rarely work alone on large-scale jobs. Instead, crews of men and women perform specialized tasks to ensure quality installation and repair work. Steeplejacks erect scaffolds and ladders to work on relatively short structures, such as church steeples. If a new steeple is to be installed, one crew member operates a crane while other workers maneuver and secure the steeple into place. For a repair job, steeplejacks may need to cut away a damaged metal or wooden piece and hammer, screw, or weld a new one in its place. Professionals also paint or finish structures to improve their aesthetics and resistance to weather.

For maintenance work on tall structures like skyscrapers, steeplejacks usually descend from the top of buildings using safety ropes and harnesses. A worker often utilizes a bosun's chair, a type of plank or seat that allows the expert to maneuver up, down, and side-to-side while hanging from the building. Once in place, they can perform such tasks as replacing a broken window or worn bricks. Many steeplejack companies also offer window-washing services for high-rise apartments and office buildings.

There are no strict educational requirements to become a steeplejack, though many prospective workers enroll in technical school programs to hone their construction skills. Before a new employee is allowed to start scaling buildings, he or she is usually required to attend several safety training courses and practice their techniques at ground level. Steeplejacks typically begin their careers as apprentices to experienced workers to become familiar with various tasks before working independently. An apprenticeship can last from six months to five years, depending on a company's policies and local laws governing what types of jobs workers are allowed to perform.

Many countries offer professional certification to individuals who successfully complete internships. A certified worker usually enjoys many different job opportunities and chances for advancement within steeplejack companies. Some professionals decide to open their own contracting business, where they take on administrative duties in addition to performing actual repair and maintenance work.

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