Construction Laborer and Helper
Construction laborers perform a variety of tasks on construction sites that range in complexity from very easy to extremely difficult and hazardous, like operating compacting equipment to prepare the site of construction or using explosives for jobs such as tunneling. They work in all phases of construction from operating jackhammers, traffic control on road crews, or using surveying equipment.
Helpers assist construction craft workers, like carpenters or electricians. This might include moving and setting forms for the shape of poured concrete or taking apart equipment. Helpers clean up sites or perform any other needs of craft workers.
Most construction laborers and helpers work full time in all weather conditions or even great heights. The construction laborer has a higher rate of injury and illness than all occupations.
How to become a Construction Laborer and Helper
Construction laborers and helpers typically learn their trade through on-the-job training with no formal education required. However, high school courses in welding, mathematics, and blue print reading is helpful. Some workers attend a trade school or community college, or apprenticeship programs that usually include 2-4 years of technical instruction and on-the-job training.
The Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) requires at least 4,000 hours of on-the-job training and 300 hours of related instruction in areas like signaling, blue print reading, safety and health procedures, and the proper use of equipment and tools. The remainder of the curriculum consists of specialized training in one of these eight areas: pipeline construction, masonry, building construction, environmental remediation, road and utility construction, tunneling, demolition and deconstruction, and landscaping.
Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. Laborers may require specific certifications or meet federal and state requirements depending on the work they do.
Job Description of a Construction Laborer and Helper
The duties of construction laborers have a wide variety of work during all phases of construction. He or she operates or tends equipment and machines needed for a construction job. They may dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction.
Those laborers with special training may transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may use lasers to place pipes and use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. He or she may remove lead, chemicals, or asbestos if certified.
Helpers assist construction craft workers with the duties of loading or unloading building materials that are needed for a construction job or build and take apart scaffolding, bracing, and temporary structures. He or she may have the job of setting forms for poured concrete or the duty of cleaning up sites, taking apart equipment, or disposing of waste.
The following construction trades have associated helpers: tile and marble setters, brick, block, and stonemasons, carpenters, electricians, painters, pipe layers, and roofers.