What is an Ironworker?

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

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What does an Ironworker do?

Both iron and steel are important elements in 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.

An ironworker unloading prefabricated steel with a sling.

Structural steel generally comes to the construction site ready to be put up, and 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.

When building a tall structure, such as a skyscraper, ironworkers will arrange the steel frames, reinforcing bars, buckets of concrete, lumber, and other materials and equipment around the construction site. Once this job has been completed, they begin to connect steel columns, beams, and girders according to blueprints and instructions from construction supervisors.

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

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; spud wrenches (long wrenches with a pointed handle) to put the steel in place; and driftpins, 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.

Are you suited to be an ironworker?

Ironworkers have distinct personalities. They tend to be realistic individuals, which means they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty. They like tasks that are tactile, physical, athletic, or mechanical. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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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 are also known as:
Iron Worker Structural Iron and Steel Worker Structural Steel Erector Structural Ironworker Reinforcing Ironworker