Construction laborers are employed for physically challenging and dangerous work. The construction of buildings and highways, excavation for tunnels and shafts, hazardous waste removal and demolition work, all require the services of construction laborers. The term laborer generally implies a task that requires no training or special skill. But, there are many areas of construction that demand the employment of laborers with a considerable amount of expertise and skill. These skills may be acquired on the job or through formal training programs.
At a construction site, the work includes cleaning the site to remove asbestos, lead and other hazardous waste. They dig trenches and lay braces on the sides to provide support. They lay sewer pipelines, storm drain pipes and pipes for water supply. They load and unload heavy building material. At highway construction sites, they prepare the work areas and the right of way. They install markers, cones and traffic barricades. Their duty includes controlling of traffic, around the work site too.
The duties assigned to laborers, requires some of them to operate different machines. The machines may include concrete mixers, plaster mixers, mechanical hoists, pavement breakers, jack hammers, earth tampers and electric and hydraulic boring machines. Nowadays, there is greater sophistication in the construction machinery used. The laborers may be required to handle hi-tech equipment, such as laser-beam equipment and the computerized controls of robotic pipe cutters and cleaners. They are also required to read and interpret plans and designs with little or no help. At times, they may be required to work as part of a team, the team comprising of skilled craftsmen.
Some construction laborers may specialize in highway construction or tunnel work, while some may be demolition specialists. In the normal course of their duties, construction laborers have to kneel, bend, crouch and climb to dangerous heights. There is no protection for them from the climatic conditions. Depending on the place of their work, they may be exposed to hazardous fumes, chemicals, odors and exceptionally loud sound.
Whenever the nature of work demands, construction workers are expected to wear protective clothing and special headgear. They need to use masks, goggles, gloves and boots to protect themselves.
Most of the construction laborers learn their skills on the job and take many years to become proficient. They have to start by helping skilled laborers and then gradually learn the skills, to enable them to function independently.
The formal apprentice program for construction laborers takes two to four years to complete. These programs are run according to the guidelines set by the Laborers- Associated General Contractors of America Education and the Training Fund. There are four thousand hours of supervised training and four hundred hours of classroom training that provide exposure to blue print reading, correct use of tools and equipment and health and safety measures.
A career as a construction laborer demands a robust physique and a readiness to tackle the challenging tasks assigned. Skills in the use and operation of special machines used in construction jobs, is also a prerequisite.
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