An ironworker is a tradesman (man or woman) who works in the ironworking industry. Ironworkers erect (or even dismantle) the structural steel framework of pre-engineered metal buildings, single and multi-story buildings, stadiums, arenas, hospitals, towers, wind turbines, and bridges.

What is an Ironworker?

Also known as: Reinforcing Ironworker, Structural Ironworker, Structural Steel Erector, Structural Iron and Steel Worker.

Structural iron and steel workers install iron or steel beams, girders and columns to form buildings, bridges and other structures. They are often referred to as ironworkers. They perform physically demanding and dangerous work.

What does an Ironworker do?

Ironworkers typically do the following:

•Unload and stack prefabricated steel so that it can be lifted easily with slings

•Use a crane to lift steel beams, girders and columns into place

•Stand on beams or girders to help position steel pieces that are being lifted

•Signal crane operators for positioning of the structural steel

•Align beams and girders into position

•Verify vertical and horizontal alignment of the structural steel

•Connect columns, beams and girders with bolts or by welding them into place

•Use metal shears, torches and welding equipment to cut, bend and weld the steel

Iron and steel are important parts of buildings, bridges and other structures. Even though the primary metal involved in this work is steel, these workers often are known as ironworkers or erectors. When building tall structures such as a skyscraper, ironworkers erect steel frames and assemble the cranes and derricks that move structural steel, reinforcing bars, buckets of concrete, lumber and other materials and equipment around the construction site. Once this job has been completed, workers begin to connect steel columns, beams and girders according to blueprints and instructions from construction supervisors.

As they work, they use a variety of tools. They use rope (called a tag line) to guide the steel while it is being lifted; they use spud wrenches (long wrenches with a pointed handle) to put the steel in place and they use drift pins or the handle of the spud wrench to line up the holes in the steel with the holes in the framework. To check the alignment they may use plumb bobs, laser equipment or levels.

Structural steel generally comes to the construction site ready to be put up—cut to the proper size, with holes drilled for bolts and numbered for assembly.

Some ironworkers make structural metal in fabricating shops which are usually located away from the construction site.

What is the workplace of an Ironworker like?

Ironworkers perform physically demanding and dangerous work. They usually work outside in all types of weather and some must work at great heights. As a result, workers must wear safety devices such as harnesses to reduce the risk of falling. Nearly all ironworkers work full time. Those who work at great heights do not work during wet, icy or extremely windy conditions. Ironworkers have one of the highest rates of injuries of all occupations.