Local 751 Ironworkers


Description of Work In The Trade

A city's skyline is a kind of signature. A cityscape can easily distinguish New York from Los Angeles, or Chicago from Seattle. Each skyscraper that towers high above its city was built by Ironworkers.

Ironworkers work with iron, steel, brass, bronze, and reinforced concrete. Their work includes not only large industrial, commercial, or residential buildings, but also highways, bridges, power transmission towers, and metal tanks.

Ironworking consists of four sub-trades--rigging, structural ironwork, reinforcing ironwork, and ornamental ironworker. Many workers become adept in two or more areas in order to give themselves more versatility and value in the job market.

A person who works as a rigger is responsible for setting up the heavy steel frames and hoisting equipment used in construction sites. The frames and equipment arrive at the site in pieces. The rigger studies the size and shape of the article and plots the lines and rigging necessary to move it. Fiber line, wire rope, chain and hooks, and slings can be selected for the job. After determining where the item can be safely placed, the rigging crew attaches the piece to the crane or derrick that will be used for hoisting. Using hand signals, one rigger directs the operators of hoisting equipment while another rigger holds a rope that keeps the steel from swinging as it is lifted. The crew positions the piece with connecting bars and jacks. Driftpins or the long pointed handle of a spud wrench may be used to align the holes of the steel and the framework. The riggers temporarily bolt the piece in place and then move on to positioning the next piece.

A structural Ironworker connects the steel columns, beams, and girders used in construction. The person reads blueprints or follows the instructions of a work leader. A person working on the plumbing-up gang uses cables and turnbuckles to pull the steel into level and plumb positions. The workers check the alignment of each piece, vertically and horizontally, using plumb bobs, levels, and laser equipment. When a piece is properly aligned, the crew bolts or welds it in place permanently.

A reinforcing Ironworker places steel reinforcement in concrete forms. These steel reinforcements give concrete added strength. The reinforcing Ironworkers use rods of different sizes and lengths, wire fabrics, or mesh, or cables and wires. Blueprints show the location, size, and number of reinforcing bars to be used in a form. If the structure calls for crisscrossed bars of steel, the Ironworker fastens them together by tying wire around them with pliers. For floors, the workers place blocks or metal chairs under the under the reinforcing bars to hold them off the deck. Sometimes the reinforcing workers use heavy wire mesh to reinforce concrete. The mesh is made of welded wire, usually in six-by-six inch grids. The worker cuts the mesh to fit, bends it into the required shape, and then positions the mesh using a hooked rod. Like other steel products used in construction, reinforcing bars usually come precut to the right size. Occasionally, the Ironworker has to cut bars with metal shears or acetylene torches, bend materials by hand or by machine, or weld materials with arc-welding equipment.

Ornamental or finishing Ironworkers install articles that are not actually parts of the basic construction of a building. These items include handrails, metal stairways, revolving doors, floor gratings, catwalks, ladders, fences, gates, metal facades, wall sheeting and other decorative items made from many materials, including precast concrete. The ornamental Ironworker positions each piece and then bolts, screw, or welds it securely in place. Ornamental Ironworkers assemble engineered metal buildings according to plans and place the interior and exterior wall and roof sheeting. Afterwards the Ironworkers install the trim work around the edges and corners to keep the weather out and look of the building appealing.

Over 90,000 people work as Union Ironworkers throughout the United States. About 80% of the available positions are with structural steel and reinforcing steel contractors. Other Ironworkers are employed by contractors who are involved in constructing bridges and tunnels, or water, sewer, and power projects. Placing reinforcing steel, welding structural shapes, and installing siding products are a large portion of the ironworker trade.