Essential skills for success as an ironworker

Ironworkers use Essential skills to complete trade-related tasks. Use this fact sheet to:

  • learn how Essential skills are used on the job;
  • find out the skills you need to succeed in your trade; and
  • help prepare yourself for your career.


  • Read cutting and placement instructions on drawings.
  • Read bulletins from employers and unions for new procedures for fall protection, accident reporting, and scaffolding installation.
  • Read comments in job safety inspection reports to learn about job site hazards.
  • Read and become familiar with health and safety policies.
  • Read trade publications and union newsletters to learn about training opportunities and new products.

Document use

  • Locate material codes and placement coordinates from stamps on steel structures.
  • Read warning signs for overhead wires, crane operations, and high voltages.
  • Locate data in tables and lists such as beam weights, sling and bolt sizes, and materials needed for the job.
  • Locate information in Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to understand hazardous products located in work areas.
  • Locate dimensions and angles on drawings to understand the construction sequence.
  • Review assembly drawings to verify the order and size when loading onto crane chokers.


  • Measure the lengths, widths, heights and placement angles of columns, beams, curtain walls, trusses and rebar for reinforced concrete.
  • Calculate distances and angles of structures for accurate placing of materials.
  • Compare measurements to specified dimensions to ensure steel columns, beams, wiring and fabricated and reinforced structures are correctly fabricated and installed.
  • Estimate supply quantities such as bolts, welding rods and extension cords required for a particular job.
  • Estimate the weights of materials to determine sling sizes.


  • Write notes in logbooks to record instructions provided by supervisors.
  • Write notes on drawings to create records of inconsistencies in measurements.
  • Describe safety concerns on safety inspection forms.

Oral communication

  • Discuss work locations, job assignments, required tools, measurement locations and supplies with supervisors and co-workers.
  • Discuss installation sequences and techniques with other ironworkers.
  • Discuss the selection of tools and supplies for different types of jobs and how and where to tie off on structures with other ironworkers.
  • Maintain ongoing discussions with crane operators to ensure safety.

Working with others

  • Coordinate job tasks with other tradespeople.
  • Work as a team with engineers, supervisors and other ironworkers when troubleshooting faults in structures and materials.


  • Find alternative ways to get steel structures into buildings when they do not fit through building openings.
  • Think of ways to work around faults in materials and supplies.
  • Select which tools and supplies to take to job sites.
  • Decide to stop work when work areas are unsafe.
  • Choose methods and tools for fabrication jobs of varying types and sizes while considering factors such as crane limitations, working temperatures, dimensions of structures being installed and existing built structures.
  • Visually inspect items such as safety ropes, harnesses and tools to judge for safety.
  • Evaluate the quality of materials.
  • Assess the efficiency and suitability of installation sequences.
  • Remember instructions from supervisors and job details such as bolt sizes, weld depths and cut angles.
  • Remember details of successful sequences of operations.

Computer use

  • Use communication devices such as computers and two-way radios to send, receive and gather information.
  • Use electronic measuring instruments.

Continuous learning

  • Attend training for mandatory recertification offered by employers and local unions.
  • Read union newsletters and industry publications to become familiar with trends and new technologies.
  • Learn through work experiences and from discussions with supervisors and co-workers.
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