Rigger (industry)

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A rigger at work on (TVA) Douglas Dam, Tennessee, June 1942

A rigger is a person who specializes in the lifting and moving of extremely large or heavy objects, often with the assistance of a crane or derrick.


The term comes from the days of sailing ships, where a rigger was a person who worked with rigging, that is, ropes for hoisting the sails. Sailors could put their rope skills to work in lifting and hauling. In an era before mechanical haulage and cranes, ropes, pulleys and muscle power were all that was available to move heavy objects. In time, rigging became a trade in itself, giving rise to the modern usage, with its roots all but forgotten.


Riggers tend to be highly specialized to moving jobs that cannot be accomplished by ordinary means, and use equipment expressly designed for moving and lifting objects weighing hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds or kilograms in places where ordinary material handling equipment cannot go.

Because of the highly specialized nature of riggers' work, it is one of the few remaining occupations that can only be learned by apprenticeship. Riggers must work together as a cohesive team, and there must be an environment of trust among them because of the potentially dangerous nature of rigging.

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