Metal fabricators construct, assemble, repair, and install products made of sheet metal like cabinets, tables, furnaces, drainpipes, control boxes, ductwork and other products. The worker is required to set up the machinery that can be operated to cut, straightening, bend and curve sheet metal. The completed project usually requires welding, soldering, and using a hammer over a form, block and build parts to join together. Before the construction is completed, the Sheet Metal Worker will inspect and smooth the joints and seems to remove any burred surfaces. On the installation and, sheet metal workers will install prefabricated ductwork to move conditioned air from the AC, ventilating or heating unit.
Sheet metal fabricating is a diversified occupation where the tradesperson must have a comprehensive understanding of the material and equipment used to construct a variety of products. Fabricators build roof systems, rain gutters, ventilation systems, citing, and ductwork for heating and air-conditioning units. Additional products include automobiles, restaurant equipment, outdoor signs, customized equipment, calm ramps, handrails and others.
If you or a family member was injured while working as a metal fabricators, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Sheet Metal Worker Classifications
There are four distinct sheet metal occupations in the sheet-metal industry these workers include:
- Sheet Metal Fabricators – The fabricators are often referred to as Precision Sheet Metal Workers because they produce a variety of metal products including gutters, ductwork, and cabinets. Most of these workers perform their duties in factories and shops that have high-end equipment and operating tools. Most of the work is highly automated and nearly always repetitive, which makes them highly susceptible to repetitive motion injuries later in life. Nearly all fabricators work with BIM (Building Information Modeling) systems and (CADD (Computer Aided Drafting design) programming.
- Sheet Metal Installers – These installers work with HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) duct units but do install other products including metal gutters, siding, and roofing material. Usually, their installation jobs involve renovation projects and new construction building.
- Sheet Metal Maintenance Workers – These workers tend to maintain ventilation systems to repair and cleaning to ensure better efficiency. Their efforts often require the removal of moisture and dust while fixing line brakes and leaks in the ductwork system.
- Sheet Metal Specialists – The specialist balance and tests heating and cooling systems to ensure they're operating properly and efficiently.
All four sheet metal occupations require extensive lifting, bending, reaching, squatting, and climbing. Installers are often exposed to the elements including inclement weather while working outdoors.
The fabricator must understand how to work with fiberglass and plastic materials. The job includes reading plans to determine materials needed to complete the finished product. Their work includes the amount and type of sheet metal required to measure, cut, bend, shape or form to produce the product. Most sheet metal fabricators are highly experienced in completing projects for commercial buildings and private residential homes. The worker understands three-dimensional drawing in can usually perform every kind of welding using various materials. To be considered for a sheet fabricating job, the worker must be proficient in a variety of skills that include:
- Manual Dexterity – Nearly every part of the job requires the fabricator to work with their hands to manipulate material while controlling every part of the assembly equipment.
- Technical and Mechanical Skills – The fabricator must comprehend blueprints, machinery, motion control robots, manuals, and computer systems to perform every aspect of their job.
- Mathematical Ability – In addition to reading plans, the fabricator must understand the technological requirements of making the product using precise calculations and dimensions.
- Ability to Lift Heavy Objects – The sheets of metal used to fabricate products are extremely heavy and requires not only lifting but manipulating the heavy materials on and around the machinery to cut, bend, mold and form each piece into its exact specifications.
- Unwavering Stamina – Fabricating sheet metal products requires intense stamina where the worker must do their job while standing on their feet in one spot for extended periods of time. When building a piece, the fabricator often performs repetitive motions for minutes or hours at a time.
Fabricators work with a variety of instruments, tools, and equipment. Some tools include adjustable wrenches, braces, vendors, hand files, electrode holders, consumable electrodes, chipping hammers, soapstone, by scripts, vises, welding clamps, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) consumables, organic solvents, wire brushes, degreasers, and other hazardous materials.
Nearly all the pieces manufactured by sheet-metal fabricators are built and assembled inside the manufacturing plant. Typically, the final assembly occurs at the job site by workers other than those who constructed, tested and inspected the product.
Metal Fabricators' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 2580 Metal Fabricators at work in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Metal Fabricators in northeastern Illinois earned $38.72 per hour, or $80,530 annually, on average. These earning wages are substantially higher than the national averages. See Chart
Fabricating metal products can be a dangerous occupation if the worker sidesteps much-needed safety regulations in their workplace. Any misunderstanding of the regulation or inattentive to safety protocols can be hazardous to the matter fabricators health. Also, the worker often performs her duties around major distractions including excessive noise that could cause a loss of concentration which is crucial to remaining safe on the job. Some of the common injuries associated with metal fabricators include:
- Musculoskeletal Disorders – The worker can be easily developed chronic problems by spending years mishandling materials that cause strains, sprains nerve damage, and convertible disc injuries. Over the years, the worker can develop repetitive stress injuries (RSIs).
- Occupational Overuse Syndrome – Working for hours in awkward postures, excessive lifting and bending and mishandling materials can cause long-term damage. These injuries can include RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), CTD (cumulative trauma disorder), and OOS (occupational overuse syndrome.
- Hand Tool Injuries – While often classified as musculoskeletal damage, Injuries caused by excessive hand tool use can because the worker to develop, afflictions. These include carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain syndrome, wrist tendinitis, and chronic disorders that leave the forum, wrist and hand tingling, numb, or in constant pain. These injuries are often the result of inappropriate workstation designs, a lack of tool maintenance, excessively using the tool or improper tool selection.
- Poor Guard Injuries – Many areas in a metal fabrication shop or off limits were access is prohibited to dangerous equipment and materials. Also, many of the tools and equipment are built with guards to protect the worker from direct contact with moving parts or dangerous components. Any missing permanent barrier, physical barrier, or sensing system could cause serious injuries or death. Guards are used on machinery to prevent the fabricator's fingers from amputation when getting trapped in the machinery during the cutting and bending processes.
Metal Fabricator Fatalities and Injuries
In May 2011, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cited a Georgia sheet-metal fabricating company with 42 health and safety violations. This action came after an October 2010 inspection when "an employee died when he was crushed by a large steel frame weighing approximately 1550 pounds." The federal agency's Atlanta-These Area as Director stated that "exposing workers to life-threatening safety and health hazards is unpardonable. Many of these hazards can easily be corrected. No worker should have to risk his or her life or a paycheck."
Unfortunately, accidents with sheet fabricators occur all the time. The few cases below reveal how a failure to follow specific safety procedures and protocols could injure or kill the worker without warning. These cases involve:
- Case 1: Broomfield, Colorado – During midafternoon on June 23, 2017, a sheet metal fabricator "was bending and aluminum sheet of metal using a press brake when the part of the upper tool broke off." The worker "was struck by the metal shrapnel" and was killed. Currently, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is assessing the violations to be filed against the tool and die company.
- Case 2: Raleigh, North Carolina – In January 2017, a sheet metal fabricator was removing a flange from a large air conditioning unit "there was held in place with a split collar. The machine had been idle for over four months, and it was winterized with all the electrical connections removed and locked out." The worker "began loosening the bolts on the collar with a crescent wrench when a co-worker said he could get a socket wrench." The employee "place the socket wrench on the retaining bolt, the flange blew off striking the employee in the face [who was] transported to the hospital and died" five days later.
- Case 3: Rotan, Texas – In the early morning hours of January 4, 2017, a worker was "operating and up-and or machine [when he] became caught in between the frame and the lifting forks" of the machine and "was crushed and killed."
One sure where every metal she fabricator can protect their health and well-being is to follow strict safety protocols and procedures while in the workplace. Supervisors and managers should continually educate the workforce through safety seminars and meetings that reinforce the importance of job safety. Additional steps can be taken by the workers and business owner to safeguard against serious injuries caused by accidents at a lack of ergonomic benefits. A few of these include:
- Build adjustable workstations built around the ergonomic solutions to difficult or repetitive tasks.
- Control or limit the amount of exposure the worker has to harmful materials.
- Adapt the layout of the employee's workplace to minimize direct contact with hazardous equipment and dangerous materials.
- Continuously focus attention on your physical exertion and activities and your surroundings.
The worker should move and lift heavy materials using cranes and forklifts when unloading raw materials and other cargo from delivery trucks. The use of trolleys for transporting materials inside the workshop can eliminate back problems and neck pain associated with excessive lifting.
Installing proper ventilation and providing much-needed PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including ear and eye guards, respirators and gloves. Additionally, any known dangerous machinery must be routinely inspected to ensure worker safety by quickly identifying any component working and properly. The fabricator should only use properly chosen hand tools for the assigned task to minimize unexpected results that could cause injury or death.
Controlling risks is the easiest solution for maintaining safety in the workplace. The employee should eliminate the potential risk, and if that is not practical, reduce the risk as far as possible. This action might mean altering environmental conditions in the workplace, altering the procedure or system or changing tools, objects or materials.
Many injured workers needing to collect as much worker's compensation as possible have turned to personal injury attorneys to handle your case. In some incidences, the lawyers can find additional third parties who are also responsible for the damages. Using a reputable law firm is important because these types of cases proving negligence in the workplace are extremely challenging to locate.
Contact A Metal Fabricators Workers Compensation & Injury Law Firm
Our law firm helps injured Metal Fabricators obtain financial compensation under the IL Worker's Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. Call us today for a Free Consultation.
Have you received only minimal amounts of workers compensation for your job-related injury? Our attorneys can show you how you are not restricted by law to seek additional compensation from third parties that might also be at fault for your damages. These additional parties could be equipment manufacturers, property owners, or many others that are negligent in their actions, or lack of action to ensure that you remained safe while working.
Our lawyers working on your behalf can handle every aspect of your case including filing a claim, presenting evidence in court, or negotiating a settlement. No upfront retainers or fees are required because our personal injury law firm accepts every claim for compensation through contingency fee arrangements. In This arrangement postpones all legal fees until after the attorneys have successfully resolved the case through a negotiated out of court settlement or a jury trial award. Be assured; if we do not win your case, you owe us nothing!