A construction worker is a tradesman, laborer (by tradition considered an unskilled tradesman), or professional employed in the physical construction of the built environment and its infrastructure. The term construction worker describes an abstract concept and is a meta-category for all those involved in construction; those performing the actual work. The physical construction worker does not actually exist, all construction workers associate themselves with some subcategory of worker. Construction workers - as anyone in an occupation that involves possible head strikes, heatstroke, frostbite, other weather elements, or hazardous contaminants - should always wear protective hard hats, giving birth to the descriptive term "hard hat worker". Some managers of small construction organizations or those that employ undocumented migrant workers avoid the expense of hardhats and other safety equipment and practices that may slow production or require larger crews. For this reason hardhats are associated with those workers involved in commercial, large scale, and government jobs.
While most construction workers learn on the job as an informal apprentice to an experienced tradesman, formal apprenticeship programs are common, particularly in developed countries with trade unions.
Among the most common construction trades are those of carpenter, electrician, heavy equipment operator, ironworker, laborer, mason, plasterer, plumber, pipefitter, sheet metal worker, steel fixer (also known as a "rodbuster"), and welder.
In 2008, a Human Rights Watch report described unsafe and unfair working conditions and failure on the part of the Chinese government to enforce labor standards in the construction industry. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that, at the end of 2006, 90% of the 40 million construction workers in China were migrant workers. Many of the migrant workers turned to construction work after their farming communities collapsed into poverty.
In the United States, illegal immigrant labor is prevalent in the construction industry. Because of the questionable legal status of these workers, employers often have the ability to commit crimes such as wage theft and violation of workplace standards without fear of facing consequences.
- hardhat - definition and meaning
- Richardson, Sophie, ed. (12 March 2008). One Year of My Blood: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing (Technical report). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- "Construction Booming In Texas, But Many Workers Pay Dearly". National Public Radio (NPR). 2013.
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