What We Do

In a very real sense, the modern economy stands on the shoulders of the Ironworker.

By the late 1800s, growing cities, industrial production of goods and the need to move them created a demand for new construction methods, and the Ironworker was born. With structural steel came the ability to economically build skyscrapers, factories and bridges that would last for generations. This revolutionary technology didn’t just transform our city skylines. It transformed the way we live and do business, too.

But it was also difficult and dangerous work. Besides having to invent and perfect a new craft, the first Ironworkers coped with inconsistent safety practices and poor job site conditions, and many lives were lost. In 1896, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers was formed to improve those conditions.

For more than 120 years, our union has ensured that only the best people do this vital work by making certain that they’re well trained, safe and fairly paid. Besides the physical strength and courage you would expect, Ironwork is a trade that demands specialized technical skills. There are three basic categories of Ironworker.

Types of Ironworkers

The Structural Ironworker

The sight of a massive steel girder being hoisted into the sky by a crane is a familiar one in Canada’s cities. What happens when it gets there is the job of the ‘Structural Ironworker’. Using engineering blueprints, specialized training and muscle, these Ironworkers position steel girders and beams with amazing precision, and then bolt them securely in place.

Most of this work is performed by hand, using tools like the legendary Ironworker’s ‘spud wrench’. And those cranes in the sky? They put those together, too. Structural ironwork is a job few dare to do, but building a better world depends on it.

The Reinforcing Ironworker

The secret to concrete structures that stand the test of time is hidden inside: reinforcing steel bars, cut and tied together to create a skeleton over which the concrete is poured. The people who do this work are called ‘Reinforcing Ironworkers’, though they’re more often referred to as ‘Rodbusters’ in the Ironworker community.

This work is painstakingly done with cutting torches and hand tools, of which the most common and famous are the Ironworker’s pliers. The next time you’re amazed at the strength of a concrete freeway overpass, parking deck or bridge, thank a Rodbuster!

The Ornamental Ironworker

Often called ‘Finishers’, Ornamental Ironworkers do the work you can see and touch when a structure is complete. They install the steel staircases, railings, windows and curtain walls and other architectural details that make buildings safe, usable and attractive. When the structural and reinforcing work is done, their work begins.

Though Ornamental Ironworkers use a variety of tools, welding is the heart of the job. With this specialized skill and meticulous care, Finishers are the last Ironworkers on a project, making sure a structure is ready to perform the job it was designed for.

The Structural Steel Fabricator

When it comes to the biggest steel structures, these Ironworkers are often on the job before construction even begins. Sometimes called ‘Shop Ironworkers’, they fabricate the individual steel components that become frameworks for the buildings and bridges that shape Canadian skylines.

But their skill with metal fabrication doesn’t end there. Shop Ironworkers also custom build the metal components that complete a structure, including stairs, handrails and other ornamental products, using steel, copper, and brass. Among the most versatile trades people in the construction industry, Structural Steel Fabricators make sure only the best goes into the things we build.


  • Industrial

  • Shipyards

  • Power Sectors

  • Roads and Bridges

  • Residential

  • Structural

  • Fabrication / Manufacturing

  • Institutional

  • Commercial