Sheet Metal Workers
On the Job
Sheet metal workers make and install metal building parts and products.
Technically speaking, sheet metal is any metal worked into a thickness of 3/16 of an inch or less. The types of metals are numerous, although the most common are aluminum and steel. An unusual example is the sheets of titanium that workers used to cover the outside of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.Sheet metal workers build products used in construction. They make and install many types of duct systems. They build roofs, siding, rain gutters, restaurant equipment, and other products made from metal sheets. They may also work with fiberglass or plastic materials. Some sheet metal workers specialize in fabrication, installation, or maintenance, but most do all three jobs.
Sheet metal workers usually fabricate their products at a shop away from the construction site. They first study plans to determine the kind and quantity of materials they will need. Then they measure, cut, bend, shape, and fasten pieces of metal to make duct work, counter tops, and other custom products. In an increasing number of shops, workers use computerized equipment. This allows them to try out different layouts to find the most efficient design for products. They cut or form parts with computer-controlled saws, lasers, shears, and presses.
In shops without computerized equipment, sheet metal workers use tapes, rulers, and other measuring tools for layout work. They then use machine tools to cut or stamp the parts.
Before assembling the pieces, sheet metal workers check each part for accuracy. They may also finish parts with hand, rotary, or squaring shears and backsaws. Next, workers fasten the seams and joints together with welds, bolts, cement, rivets, solder, or sheet metal drive clips. Finally, they take the parts to the construction site, where they further assemble the pieces as they install them. These workers install ducts, pipes, and tubes by joining them end to end. Then they hang them with metal hangers secured to a ceiling or wall. They also use shears, hammers, punches, and drills to make parts at the work site, or to alter parts made in the shop.
Some jobs are done completely at the job site. For example, to install a metal roof, sheet metal workers measure and cut the roofing panels. They secure the first panel in place, and then fasten the grooved edge of the next panel into the grooved edge of the first. Next, they nail or weld the free edge of the panel to the structure. This process is repeated for each panel. They also work at the job site to install solar panels, cool walls, or wind turbines.
Some sheet metal workers specialize in maintaining existing cooling and ventilation, or HVAC, systems. They inspect, test, adjust, and service these systems to use less energy. They may also do inspections to make sure the HVAC systems meet green certification standards, such as LEED.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Study plans to decide the kind and quantity of materials they will need.
- Measure, cut, bend, shape, and fasten pieces of metal to install solar panels, make duct work, cool roofs, and other custom products.
- May use computerized metalworking equipment to experiment with different layouts or to cut and form parts.
- May use calculators, tapes, rulers, and other measuring devices for layout work. May use machine tools to cut or stamp parts.
- Check parts for accuracy. Finish parts with hand, rotary, or squaring shears and hacksaws.
- Fasten seams and joints together with welds, bolts, cement, rivets, solder, or sheet metal drive clips.
- Take parts to construction site for further assembly and installation.
- Use shears, hammers, punches, and drills to make or alter parts.
- Join ducts and pipes end to end. Hang them with metal hangers secured to a ceiling or wall.
- May fabricate and install some products, such as metal roofs or wind turbines, completely at the job site.
- May inspect, test, balance, adjust, and service existing air-conditioning and ventilation systems to use less energy.
- May work with fiberglass or plastic materials.
- May work according to LEED standards.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Handle and move objects.
- Control machines and processes.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Process information.
- Think creatively.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Provide information or drawings about devices, equipment, or structures.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Repair and maintain mechanical equipment.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Guide, direct, and motivate subordinates.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social interaction.
- Are responsible for work outcomes and results of coworkers.
- Are responsible for coworkers' health and safety.
- Are sometimes placed in conflict situations.
- Communicate with coworkers daily in person.
- Often communicate with coworkers by telephone.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Work indoors and outdoors.
- Are exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting and uncomfortable on a daily basis.
- Are exposed daily to hazardous equipment.
- Are often exposed to hazardous situations that may produce cuts or minor burns. Workers can reduce the risk by following safety procedures.
- Often are exposed to contaminants.
- Are exposed to very hot or very cold temperatures on a weekly basis.
- Are often exposed to extremely bright or inadequate lighting conditions.
- Are exposed to high places on a weekly basis.
- Sometimes are exposed to cramped work places that require getting into awkward positions.
- Work in indoor environments without heat or air conditioning.
- Work near other people, but usually have a few feet of space separating them from coworkers.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors could result in serious injuries.
- Repeat the same physical activities.
- Often make decisions that affect coworkers. They are able to make most decisions without talking to a supervisor.
- Are able to set some tasks and goals for the day without talking to a supervisor.
- Are moderately competitive with other workers.
- Must meet strict deadlines on a weekly basis.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- Usually work a 40-hour week.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand to install metal products or to fabricate large pieces.
- Bend or twist their body.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Walk or run for long periods of time.
- Climb ladders, scaffolds, or poles.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- See objects in very bright or glaring light.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.