Top 10 construction site heroes

Written by LetsBuild

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The construction sector involves a wide variety of professions with differing skill sets and backgrounds. Whether it’s someone fresh out of an apprenticeship, a labourer with decades of know-how and experience, or someone purely trained in a classroom setting, you’ll find that a construction site often represents an (albeit limited!) microcosm of society.

Individuals who work on construction sites often put their lives at risk. These places can be downright dangerous. And it’s not just perception, we have the numbers to back that claim up. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 899 deaths were recorded in 2014 alone. This figure accounts for one in five of all work-related deaths. In our books, anyone who works on a construction site to get the job done is doing something heroic. The following 10 hero roles turn a dusty piece of land into a fully operational building.

The electrician

Working in challenging environments both indoors and outdoors, the electrician is tasked with the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical units throughout the construction site. This includes lighting, communications, control systems, and more. Electricians are used to working long hours, with weekends and evenings being no strangers.

Electricians not only have to assemble and install wiring, appliances, fixtures, and equipment, but they’re also responsible for any faults and malfunctions. They’re also at risk of suffering from a range of work-related accidents, including electric shocks, which can lead to serious burns and cuts.

In terms of education, you need a high school diploma (or equivalent). However, this doesn’t mean you can get a job fresh out of high school. In order to become a fully-fledged electrician, you can expect to work as an apprentice for four or five years.

The carpenter

In terms of construction site roles, the carpenter sometimes flies under the radar. However, they fulfill an important role, being responsible for constructing, installing, and repairing all structures and frameworks made of wood, or other equivalent materials. The carpenter is a multi-talented individual, often working in a variety of jobs: some install drywall, others build cabinets and other such structures, and insulation projects also fall within the carpenter’s remit.

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In terms of education, a high school diploma is enough to enter most apprenticeship programs. However, that doesn’t mean that vocational courses are not useful. For example, the Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) course (accredited by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry) can help position you for management roles later in your career.

The heavy equipment operator

The heavy equipment operator is no stranger to grime, dirt, grease, or mud. Expected to work in a range of conditions, the operator has an irregular work schedule based on project requirements. The heavy machinery operated is most often used to assist in the construction of buildings, roads, and bridges.

construction site heroes
The heavy equipment operator has a close relationship with the machinery used. They will be expected to maintain the equipment as necessary, including making the occasional basic repair. Any malfunctioning needs to be ascertained quickly and efficiently. Examples of machinery used include bulldozers, trench excavators, and road graders.

The glazier

Specializing in all things glass, the glazier ensures skylights, windows, and other such fixtures are installed as necessary. The job is physically demanding, with glaziers expected to work long hours using machinery to cut and fit glass according to site requirements. These are just some of the responsibilities:

  • Setting glass doors into their frames, using metal hinges and locks, for example.
  • Remove broken and old glass in preparation for installation.
  • Install the framework for windows and doors using hand tools as part of a window project.

As with most jobs on this list, you can usually find an apprenticeship in the industry with a high school diploma or equivalent. Budding glaziers may also be interested in qualifications from the National Glass Association, which provides courses for specific installation and role types.

construction site heroes

The plasterer

With an average salary hovering around the $49k mark, the plasterer forms an essential cog in the construction machine. Responsible for the preparation of walls and ceilings prior to decoration, the plasterer is usually part of a small team. Requiring dexterity and the ability to work efficiently, the plasterer must be physically fit.
There are no set qualifications needed to become a plasterer, however, the experience is usually highly valued. This means that an apprenticeship is part of the equation before getting a formal job.

The plumber

This essential job entails the full installation of plumbing solutions on construction sites, including septic systems and pipes. The plumber is the unsung hero of the construction trade and we’ll explain why. Back in the 19th century, diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid had a devastating effect on an industrializing society. The advent of plumbing helped in almost eliminating the spread of such infectious diseases.

If you fancy becoming a plumber, there are several ways to go about it. Some attend a technical school first before moving into an apprenticeship, while some learn on the job. Bear in mind that most countries/states require a license to practice.

The welder

Usually using hand-held equipment, the welder is expected to lay out, position, and secure metal parts to structures. Welders are used to all conditions, whether it’s working in abject weather in the outdoors, or in small and confined locations inside. The ability to work in awkward positions is inherent to the average welder. The welder is also expected to be proficient with blueprints, specifications, and sketches.

There are several types of welder job applications, but the most common procedure is known as arc welding. This involves the use of electrical currents to heat and bond metals. However, there are more than one hundred processes that can be used, each suitable for a particular type of job. Experience, therefore, is an important component in becoming a proficient welder.

The steel fixer

Without the steel fixer, buildings would simply collapse. This job involves using steel bars alongside mesh in reinforced concrete as part of a process to strengthen buildings. The role is one of the most demanding on a construction site, as it involved lifting, working at heights, and bending on a regular basis.

The steel fixer often has an unorthodox path to the role. Many begin as an assistant construction worker, helping to carry equipment and tools. Those who show an interest in the role are slowly given additional responsibilities along the way. To get a job as a steel fixer, you’ll eventually need a qualification that will allow you to use tools for cutting and shaping bits of steel.

The crane operator

The crane operator’s job description sounds straightforward. They operate machinery, both mobile and stationary, to move, lift, and reposition heavy loads. Contrary to public perception, however, crane operators do more than just push a series of buttons.

For example, they need to be proficient at quick communication with ground workers using hand signals. They must be accurate in their delivery of the loads carried, taking into account speed, direction, and weather conditions. They must also be acutely aware of the parts of the machinery they use, identifying faults and risk points.

The job can also be extremely dangerous, with numerous accidents reported in recent years. For example, a Minnesota operator sustained injuries when his 550-ton crane overturned while working a job. In July of 2018, a crane operator was killed in a wind farm construction accident.

The elevator mechanic

The elevator mechanic needs to be fit. They need to be able to do detailed and precise work whilst working at heights (acrophobics need not apply). Elevator mechanics also need to have in-depth knowledge of traction and hydraulic elevators, as well as the complex electrical systems that manage them.

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Becoming an elevator mechanic isn’t a short journey. You’ll have to go through a grueling five-year program, the National Elevator Industry Education Program. This includes online classes, probationary work, school and night classes combined, and a notoriously difficult examination. Considering it’s one of the highest paid trades out there – over $76k a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – it’s not surprising that competition is fierce.

Bonus: The construction manager

The ‘marmite’ bonus addition to this list is the construction manager. Regarded by some as a suit with a ceremonial hard hat (and earning over $90k a year!), their role on a construction site is quite critical. The construction manager is the person who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on a construction site.

Construction managers have to plan, coordinate, and execute all aspects of the project. This includes budgeting, reading blueprints, managing employees, and negotiating changes as they come along. It’s no wonder construction managers work some of the longest hours in the industry. It’s more than just ribbon cutting and posing for pictures.

About the author: Milton Lewis has a passion for property related topics due to the years spent in a family of structural engineers. He has also a strong interest in hi-tech and psychology.