Steel erectors, also known as iron workers, construct the frames of tall structures, including skyscrapers, hospitals, parking garages, air traffic control towers, manufacturing plants and universities. They perform a range of services from shear stud or joint installation to building renovation to metal decking. Steel erectors either control derricks and cranes, or direct crane operators, in transporting buckets of concrete, reinforcement bars, structural steel components and other necessary materials to their position on the building.
Learning the Job
Steel erectors usually need a minimum of a high school diploma and a broad understanding of mechanics, design and engineering. Most complete three or four years of an apprenticeship to learn the tricks of the trade. Eligibility differs by the organization, but apprenticeships generally require candidates to be physically able to handle the work, to be a minimum of 18 years old and to pass a substance abuse screening. Steel erectors can’t be afraid of heights, and they must have excellent depth perception, balance and physical strength.
Covering the Details
For each new project, steel erectors collaborate with their team to create construction and safety plans, evaluate location-specific hazards, review drawings in detail and determine procedures for welding and crane logistics. Steel erectors cut various materials for installation and weld or use bolts to connect beams, girders and columns to other structural pieces. Depending on the specifications of the project, they may install wires, ladders, gauges, flanges, valves, sealing strips or insulated materials.
Safety and Stability
Steel erectors are often responsible for putting together and breaking down temporary shelters and similar equipment that’s used during the construction process. They also prepare support and safety equipment around work sites. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, steel erectors are constantly on narrow working surfaces that are several levels above the ground. OSHA notes that many erectors start working at the top of the structure, where anchor points higher than foot level tend to be unavailable or limited.
Advancement and Employment
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most steel erectors get certified by the American Welding Society. (See Reference 1: How to Become One tab; Licenses, Certifications and Registrations) It reports that those with certification in crane signaling, rigging and welding may receive higher pay than workers without credentials. (See Reference 1: How to Become One tab; Licenses, Certifications and Registrations) The BLS classifies steel erectors under the broader category of structural iron and steel workers, who earned an average annual income of $51,590, as of May 2013. (see Reference 6) It reports that employment opportunities are expected to increase 22 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is must faster than the average of all occupations at 11 percent. (See Reference 1: Job Outlook tab; paragraph 1)