Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Is An Iron Worker

Iron workers assemble the heavy metal pieces that support structures.

An iron worker raises, places and fastens together iron or steel beams, girders, plates or columns to form structural frameworks or completed structures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor, structural iron workers assemble cranes, hoists and rigging to move heavy pieces of structural iron or steel, position the pieces for assembly, and connect the pieces with bolts, rivets or welds according to blueprints or instructions from supervisors. In addition to buildings, structural iron workers construct bridges, towers, storage tanks and guardrails. Iron workers also dismantle iron and steel structures, install non-structural steel building fixtures and reinforce concrete.

Ornamental Iron Worker

There are two other types of iron workers besides structural, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ornamental iron workers install iron, steel, bronze, aluminum or stainless steel trim, paneling, doors, windows, railings and curtain walls on structural frameworks. They may also install decorative fencing and other purely decorative metal features on buildings and other structures. In general, ornamental iron workers install all of a structure's metal fixtures other than the iron or steel framework supporting the structure.

Reinforcing Iron Worker

Reinforcing iron workers assemble and install the steel reinforcing bars known as rebar that support and strengthen the concrete in large buildings and other large structures such as bridges. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these iron workers place and assemble the rebar according to blueprints. Rebar may be combined with steel mesh. After the reinforcement is in place, concrete is poured around and over it to complete the structure. In some applications, reinforcement is by cables that iron workers put under tension while the poured concrete is still wet. This "post-tensioning" technique allows larger unsupported spans.

Iron Worker Skills

Iron workers must be able to read blueprints and specifications and do necessary math to determine sizes, quantities and locations of the pieces needed for a job. They must know use measuring devices such as transits, levels, plumb bobs and lasers to verify correct alignment of the pieces. They need experience with cutting, welding and riveting tools as well as a variety of hand and power tools for pulling, pushing, prying, hammering or fastening metal pieces into place.

Iron Worker Training

The best way to learn iron working is through an apprentice program, said the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, a labor union. Candidates for apprenticeships must be at least 18 years of age and a high school graduate, physically fit, free of drugs or alcohol and agile with a good sense of balance since they will be working in high places. The apprentice program lasts for three to four years and consists of classroom instruction and paid on-the-job training. Apprentices learn the techniques and tools of the trade, and their progress is evaluated every six months. Apprentices are paid about 60 percent of the wage for experienced workers.

Iron Worker Jobs and Pay

As of 2008, there were 97,800 iron workers employed in the U.S., said the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 70 percent of them being structural iron workers. Pay ranges from $12 to $37 an hour, depending on labor market, skills and experience. The median wage is around $21 per hour. About 40 percent of iron workers are union members. The most jobs and highest wages are in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, but iron work can be found in most other large cities.

Tags: iron workers, Iron Worker, iron steel, Bureau Labor, Bureau Labor Statistics