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Construction workers perform a wide range of tasks involving physical labor at construction sites. They may operate hand and power tools of all types: shovels, hammers, drills, cement mixers, surveying and measuring instruments, and a variety of other equipment. They clean and prepare sites, dig trenches, set braces to support the sides of excavations, erect scaffolding, remove debris, etc.
Although many construction laborers are generalists, many others specialize in a certain area such as home building, heavy construction, or environmental remediation. Most construction laborers do physically demanding work. They must wear gloves, safety glasses, earplugs, and other protective gear. Some work at great heights or outdoors in all weather conditions; others may be required to work underground in tunnels.
Construction workers on highway and bridge projects may need to work overnight to avoid major disruptions to traffic. In some parts of the country, construction workers may only be able to work during certain seasons. Although construction laborers sometimes have to stop work because of bad weather, they often work overtime to meet deadlines.
Most construction laborers and helpers learn their trade through on-the-job training after being hired by a construction contractor. These workers typically gain experience by doing jobs under the guidance of more experienced workers. Certain groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some workers attend a trade school, vocational school, or community college to receive further training.
Through experience and training, construction workers can advance into positions that involve more complex tasks. For example, they may earn certifications in concrete finishing or forklift operation and then spend more time performing activities that require those specialized skills.
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