Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

Boilermakers typically do the following:

  • Use blueprints to determine locations, positions, or dimensions of parts
  • Install small premade boilers into buildings and manufacturing facilities
  • Lay out prefabricated parts of larger boilers before assembling them
  • Assemble boiler tanks, often using robotic or automatic welders
  • Test and inspect boiler systems for leaks or defects
  • Clean vats using scrapers, wire brushes, and cleaning solvents
  • Replace or repair broken valves, pipes, or joints, using hand and power tools, gas torches, and welding equipment

Boilers, tanks, and vats are used in many buildings, factories, and ships. Boilers heat water or other fluids under extreme pressure to generate electric power and to provide heat. Large tanks and vats are used to store and process chemicals, oil, beer, and hundreds of other products.

Boilers are made out of steel, iron, copper, or stainless steel. Manufacturers are increasingly automating the production of boilers to improve the quality of these vessels. However, boilermakers still use many tools in making or repairing boilers. For example, they use hand and power tools or flame cutting torches to cut pieces for a boiler. To bend the pieces into shape and accurately line them up, boilermakers use plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles.

If the plate sections are very large, large cranes lift the parts into place. Once they have the parts lined up, they use metalworking machinery and other tools to remove irregular edges so the parts fit together properly. They join the parts by bolting, welding, or riveting them together.

In addition to installing and maintaining boilers and other vessels, boilermakers help erect and repair air pollution equipment, blast furnaces, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, and smokestacks. Boilermakers also install refractory brick and other heat-resistant materials in fireboxes or pressure vessels. Some install and maintain the huge pipes used in dams to send water to and from hydroelectric power generation turbines.

Because boilers last a long time--sometimes 50 years or more--boilermakers must regularly maintain them and upgrade parts. They frequently inspect fittings, feed pumps, safety and check valves, water and pressure gauges, and boiler controls.


Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.

Construction equipment operators typically do the following:

  • Check to make sure that equipment functions properly
  • Clean, maintain, and make basic repairs to equipment
  • Report malfunctions to supervisors
  • Move levers, push pedals, or turn valves to activate power equipment
  • Drive and maneuver equipment
  • Coordinate machine actions with crew members in response to hand or audio signals
  • Ensure that safety standards are met

Construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials, earth, and other heavy materials at construction sites and mines. They operate equipment that clears and grades land to prepare it for construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as airport runways, power generation facilities, dams, levees, and other structures.

The following are types of construction equipment operators:

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work with one or several types of power construction equipment. They may operate excavation and loading machines equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth, or similar materials. In addition to operating the familiar bulldozer, they operate trench excavators, road graders, and similar equipment. Sometimes, they may drive and control industrial trucks or tractors equipped with forklifts or booms for lifting materials. They also may operate and maintain air compressors, pumps, and other power equipment at construction sites.

Paving and surfacing equipment operators control the machines that spread and level asphalt or spread and smooth concrete for roadways or other structures. Paving and surfacing equipment operators may specialize further:

  • Asphalt spreader operators turn valves to regulate the temperature of asphalt and the flow of asphalt onto the roadbed. They must ensure that the machine distributes the paving material evenly, and they also must ensure that there is a constant flow of asphalt into the hopper.
  • Concrete paving machine operators control levers and turn handwheels to move attachments that spread, vibrate, and level wet concrete. They must watch the surface of the concrete carefully to identify low spots into which workers must add concrete.
  • Tamping equipment operators use machines that compact earth and other fill materials for roadbeds or other construction sites. They also may operate machines with interchangeable hammers to cut or break up old pavement and drive guardrail posts into the ground.

Piledriver operators use large machines mounted on skids, barges, or cranes to hammer piles into the ground. Piles are long, heavy beams of wood or steel driven into the ground to support retaining walls, bridges, piers, or building foundations. Some piledriver operators work on offshore oil rigs.

Some workers operate cranes to move construction materials. For more information on these workers, see the profile on material moving machine operators.


Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.

Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
  • Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
  • Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
  • Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
  • Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors  
  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.

For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.

To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.


Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.

Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
  • Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
  • Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
  • Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
  • Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors  
  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.

For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.

To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.


Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.

Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
  • Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
  • Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
  • Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
  • Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors  
  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.

For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.

To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.


Fire Inspectors and Investigators

Fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures, such as sports arenas and shopping malls, to search for fire hazards and to ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They also test and inspect fire protection and fire extinguishing equipment to ensure that it works. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires by searching the surrounding scene and collecting evidence.

Fire inspectors typically do the following:

  • Search for fire hazards
  • Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
  • Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection and extinguishing equipment
  • Inspect equipment such as gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
  • Review emergency evacuation plans
  • Conduct follow-up visits when an infraction is found
  • Confer with developers and planners to review plans for residential and commercial buildings
  • Conduct fire and life safety education programs
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law

Fire investigators typically do the following:

  • Collect and analyze evidence
  • Interview witnesses
  • Determine the origin and cause of a fire
  • Process and document evidence, such as photographs and diagrams
  • Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
  • Confer with other specialists, such as chemists, engineers, and attorneys, to analyze information
  • Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or an accelerant
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

Unlike fire inspectors, many fire investigators have police powers and carry a weapon.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for issues that pose a wildfire risk and recommend ways to reduce the fire hazard. During patrols, they ensure that the public is following fire regulations and report fire conditions to central command.


Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators manage a system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically do the following:

  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia, chlorine, or lime, to disinfect water or other liquids
  • Inspect equipment on a regular basis
  • Monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples
  • Record meter and gauge readings and operational data
  • Operate equipment to purify and clarify water or to process or dispose of sewage
  • Clean and maintain equipment, tanks, filter beds, and other work areas
  • Stay current on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations
  • Ensure safety standards are met

It takes a lot of work to get water from natural sources--reservoirs, streams, and groundwater--into our taps. Similarly, it is a complicated process to convert the wastewater in our drains and sewers into a form that is safe to release into the environment.

The specific duties of plant operators depend on the type and size of the plant. In a small plant, one operator may be responsible for maintaining all of the systems. In large plants, multiple operators work the same shifts and are more specialized in their duties, often relying on computerized systems to help them monitor plant processes.

Occasionally, operators must work during emergencies. For example, weather conditions may cause large amounts of storm water or wastewater to flow into sewers, exceeding a plant's capacity. Emergencies also may be caused by malfunctions within a plant, such as chemical leaks or oxygen deficiencies. Operators are trained in emergency management procedures and use safety equipment to protect their health, as well as that of the public.

Water treatment plant and system operators work in water treatment plants. Fresh water is pumped from wells, rivers, streams, and reservoirs to water treatment plants, where it is treated and distributed to customers. Water treatment plant and system operators run the equipment, control the processes, and monitor the plants that treat water to make it safe to drink.

Wastewater treatment plant and system operators do similar work to remove pollutants from domestic and industrial waste. Used water, also known as wastewater, travels through sewage pipes to treatment plants where it is treated and either returned to streams, rivers, and oceans, or used for irrigation.


Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases to and in businesses, homes, and factories.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically do the following:

  • Install pipes and fixtures
  • Study blueprints and follow state and local building codes
  • Determine the amount of material and type of equipment needed
  • Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
  • Troubleshoot and repair systems that are not working
  • Replace worn parts

Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are three distinct specialties, their duties are often similar. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They connect pipes, determine the necessary materials for a job, and perform pressure tests to ensure a pipe system is airtight and watertight.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install, maintain, and repair many different types of pipe systems. Some of these systems carry water, dispose of waste, supply gas to ovens, or heat and cool buildings. Other systems, such as those in power plants, carry the steam that powers huge turbines. Pipes also are used in manufacturing plants to move acids, gases, and waste byproducts through the production process.

Master plumbers on construction jobs may be involved with developing blueprints that show where all the pipes and fixtures will go. Their input helps ensure that a structure's plumbing meets building codes, stays within budget, and works well with the location of other features, such as electric wires.

Plumbers and fitters may use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers can install. Power-plant water systems, by contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install. Some workers install stainless steel pipes on dairy farms and in factories, mainly to prevent contamination.

Plumbers and fitters sometimes cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. With some pipe systems, workers may hang steel supports from ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. Because pipes are seldom manufactured to the exact size or length, plumbers and fitters measure and then cut and bend lengths of pipe as needed. Their tools include saws, pipe cutters, and pipe-bending machines.

They then connect the pipes, using methods that vary by type of pipe. For example, copper pipe is joined with solder, but steel pipe is often screwed together.

In addition to installation and repair work, journey- and master-level plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters often direct apprentices and helpers.

Following are examples of occupational specialties:

Plumbers install and repair water, drainage, and gas pipes in homes, businesses, and factories. They install and repair large water lines, such as those that supply water to buildings, and smaller ones, including ones that supply water to refrigerators. Plumbers also install plumbing fixtures--bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets--and appliances such as dishwashers, garbage disposals, and water heaters. They also fix plumbing problems. For example, when a pipe is clogged or leaking, plumbers remove the clog or replace the pipe. Some plumbers maintain septic systems, the large, underground holding tanks that collect waste from houses not connected to a city or county's sewer system.

Pipefitters install and maintain pipes that carry chemicals, acids, and gases. These pipes are mostly in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. They often install and repair pipe systems in power plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. Some pipefitters specialize:

  • Gasfitters install pipes that provide clean oxygen to patients in hospitals.
  • Sprinklerfitters install and repair fire sprinkler systems in businesses, factories, and residential buildings.
  • Steamfitters installpipe systems that move steam under high pressure. Most steamfitters work at campus and natural gas power plants where heat and electricity is generated, but others work in factories that use high-temperature steam pipes.

Architects

Architects plan and design buildings and other structures.

Architects typically do the following:

  • Seek new work by marketing and giving presentations
  • Consult with clients to determine requirements for structures
  • Estimate materials, equipment, costs, and construction time
  • Prepare, design, and structure specifications
  • Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
  • Prepare scaled drawings of the project
  • Prepare contract documents for building contractors
  • Manage construction contracts
  • Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans

People need places to live, work, play, learn, worship, meet, govern, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing these places, whether they are private or public; indoors or outdoors; or rooms, buildings, or complexes.

Architects discuss with clients the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide various predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses and land-use studies, and design requirements. For example, architects may determine a building's space requirements by researching its number and types of potential users.

After discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal, architects develop final construction plans that show the building's appearance and details for its construction. Accompanying these plans are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; plumbing; and, possibly, site and landscape plans.

In developing designs, architects must follow building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring easy access by people who are disabled.

Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) technology have replaced traditional drafting paper and pencil as the most common methods for creating designs and construction drawings.

Architects also may help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.

As construction proceeds, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design, keep to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work-quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid.

Architects often work with workers in related professions. For more information on these occupations, see the profiles on civil engineers, urban and regional planners, interior designers, and landscape architects.


Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that new construction, changes, or repairs comply with local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

Construction and building inspectors typically do the following:

  • Review and approve plans that meet building codes, local ordinances, and zoning regulations
  • Inspect and monitor construction sites to ensure overall compliance
  • Use survey instruments, metering devices, and test equipment to perform inspections
  • Monitor installation of plumbing, electrical, and other systems to ensure that the building meets codes
  • Verify level, alignment, and elevation of structures and fixtures to ensure building compliance
  • Issue violation notices and stop-work orders until building is compliant
  • Keep daily logs, including photographs taken during inspection

Construction and building inspectors examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures. They also inspect electrical; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR); and plumbing systems. Although no two inspections are alike, inspectors do an initial check during the first phase of construction and follow-up inspections throughout the construction project. When the project is finished, they do a final, comprehensive inspection.

The following are types of construction and building inspectors:

Building inspectors check the structural quality and general safety of buildings. Some specialize in structural steel or reinforced-concrete structures, for example.

Electrical inspectors examine the installed electrical systems to ensure they function properly and comply with electrical codes and standards. The inspectors visit worksites to inspect new and existing sound and security systems, wiring, lighting, motors, and generating equipment. They also inspect the installed electrical wiring for HVACR systems and appliances.

Elevator inspectors examine lifting and conveying devices, such as elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, lifts and hoists, inclined railways, ski lifts, and amusement rides.

Home inspectors typically inspect newly built or previously owned homes, condominiums, townhomes, and other dwellings. Prospective home buyers often hire home inspectors to check and report on a home's structure and overall condition. Sometimes, homeowners hire a home inspector to evaluate their home's condition before placing it on the market.

In addition to examining structural quality, home inspectors examine all home systems and features, including roofing, exterior walls, attached garage or carport, foundation, interior, plumbing, electrical, and HVACR systems. They look for and report violations of building codes, but they do not have the power to enforce compliance with the codes.

Mechanical inspectors examine the installation of HVACR systems and equipment to ensure that they are installed and function properly. They also may inspect commercial kitchen equipment, gas-fired appliances, and boilers.

Plan examiners determine whether the plans for a building or other structure comply with building codes. They also determine whether the structure is suited to the engineering and environmental demands of the building site.

Plumbing inspectors examine the installation of potable water, waste, and vent piping systems to ensure the safety and health of the drinking water system, piping for industrial uses, and the sanitary disposal of waste.

Public works inspectors ensure that federal, state, and local government water and sewer systems, highways, streets, bridges, and dam construction conform to detailed contract specifications. Workers inspect excavation and fill operations, the placement of forms for concrete, concrete mixing and pouring, asphalt paving, and grading operations. Public works inspectors may specialize in highways, structural steel, reinforced concrete, or ditches. Others specialize in dredging operations required for bridges and dams or for harbors.

Specification inspectors ensure that work is performed according to design specifications. Specification inspectors represent the owner's interests, not those of the general public. Insurance companies and financial institutions also may use their services.

A primary concern of building inspectors is fire prevention safety. For more information, see the profile on fire inspectors and investigators.


Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases to and in businesses, homes, and factories.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically do the following:

  • Install pipes and fixtures
  • Study blueprints and follow state and local building codes
  • Determine the amount of material and type of equipment needed
  • Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
  • Troubleshoot and repair systems that are not working
  • Replace worn parts

Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are three distinct specialties, their duties are often similar. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They connect pipes, determine the necessary materials for a job, and perform pressure tests to ensure a pipe system is airtight and watertight.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install, maintain, and repair many different types of pipe systems. Some of these systems carry water, dispose of waste, supply gas to ovens, or heat and cool buildings. Other systems, such as those in power plants, carry the steam that powers huge turbines. Pipes also are used in manufacturing plants to move acids, gases, and waste byproducts through the production process.

Master plumbers on construction jobs may be involved with developing blueprints that show where all the pipes and fixtures will go. Their input helps ensure that a structure's plumbing meets building codes, stays within budget, and works well with the location of other features, such as electric wires.

Plumbers and fitters may use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers can install. Power-plant water systems, by contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install. Some workers install stainless steel pipes on dairy farms and in factories, mainly to prevent contamination.

Plumbers and fitters sometimes cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. With some pipe systems, workers may hang steel supports from ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. Because pipes are seldom manufactured to the exact size or length, plumbers and fitters measure and then cut and bend lengths of pipe as needed. Their tools include saws, pipe cutters, and pipe-bending machines.

They then connect the pipes, using methods that vary by type of pipe. For example, copper pipe is joined with solder, but steel pipe is often screwed together.

In addition to installation and repair work, journey- and master-level plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters often direct apprentices and helpers.

Following are examples of occupational specialties:

Plumbers install and repair water, drainage, and gas pipes in homes, businesses, and factories. They install and repair large water lines, such as those that supply water to buildings, and smaller ones, including ones that supply water to refrigerators. Plumbers also install plumbing fixtures--bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets--and appliances such as dishwashers, garbage disposals, and water heaters. They also fix plumbing problems. For example, when a pipe is clogged or leaking, plumbers remove the clog or replace the pipe. Some plumbers maintain septic systems, the large, underground holding tanks that collect waste from houses not connected to a city or county's sewer system.

Pipefitters install and maintain pipes that carry chemicals, acids, and gases. These pipes are mostly in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. They often install and repair pipe systems in power plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. Some pipefitters specialize:

  • Gasfitters install pipes that provide clean oxygen to patients in hospitals.
  • Sprinklerfitters install and repair fire sprinkler systems in businesses, factories, and residential buildings.
  • Steamfitters installpipe systems that move steam under high pressure. Most steamfitters work at campus and natural gas power plants where heat and electricity is generated, but others work in factories that use high-temperature steam pipes.

Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or earth around a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto and off of container ships.

Material moving machine operators typically do the following:

  • Control equipment with levers, wheels, or foot pedals
  • Move material according to a plan or schedule they receive from their superiors
  • Set up and inspect material moving equipment
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment
  • Record the material they have moved and where they moved it from and to

In warehouse environments, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Automated sensors and tags are increasingly used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to work faster.

In warehouses, operators usually work closely with hand material movers. For more information, see the profile on hand laborers and material movers.

Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract the ore and other mined materials.

In construction, material movers remove earth to clear space for buildings. Some work on a building site for the entire length of the construction project. For example, material moving machine operators often help to construct high-rise buildings by transporting materials to workers far above ground level.

The following are types of material moving machine operators:

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around warehouses, storage yards, or worksites. These trucks, often called forklifts, have a lifting mechanism and forks, which makes them useful for moving heavy and large objects. Some industrial truck and tractor operators drive tractors that pull trailers loaded with material around factories or storage areas.

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators use machines equipped with scoops or shovels. They dig sand, earth, or other materials and load them onto conveyors for transport elsewhere. Most of these operators work in construction or mining industries.

Dredge operators excavate waterways. They remove sand, gravel, or rock from harbors or lakes to help prevent erosion and improve trade. Removing these materials helps maintain navigable waterways and allows larger ships to use more ports. Dredging is also used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

Underground mining loading machine operators load coal, ore, and other rocks onto shuttles, mine cars, or conveyors for transport from a mine to the surface. These workers generally work underground in mines. They may use power shovels, hoisting engines equipped with scrapers or scoops, and automatic gathering arms that move materials onto a conveyor.

Crane and tower operators use tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. Operators extend and retract horizontal arms and lower and raise hooks attached to cables at the end of their crane or tower. Operators are usually guided by other workers on the ground using hand signals or a radio. Most crane and tower operators work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Some also work in iron and steel mills. 

Hoist and winch operators, also called derrick operators or hydraulic boom operators, control the movement of platforms, cables, and cages that transport workers or materials for industrial operations, such as constructing a high-rise building. Many of these operators raise platforms up far above the ground. Most work in manufacturing or construction industries. For more information about rig derrick equipment workers, see the profile on oil and gas workers.

Conveyor operators and tenders control conveyor systems that move materials on an automatic belt. They move materials to and from places such as building sites, storage areas, and vehicles.


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