July 2016

Outlook for Reinforcing Iron Workers: Recruitment, Training & Safety

Over the last few years, we have seen a shortage of skilled reinforcing rodbusters in our industry. We continue to combat the shortage by increasing recruitment and training. Gladiator training continues to be a tool locals across the United States are using to simulate on-the-job situations and get apprentices familiar with the trade. Various locals have networked within their communities in order to obtain interest in the reinforcing field and offer people a chance to obtain training and a career with opportunities for advancement instead of just a job. 

To deal with the shortage of workers, we need to build a whole new workforce and increase gladiator and safety training. We will also be seeing a need to increase wages due to the high demand for skilled reinforcing ironworkers. 

While we show a lot of commitment to recruitment efforts, we also need to acknowledge the importance of safety in this area of the trade. We want to man the work, but we also need to ensure we send out workers who can adhere to safety procedures and identify and avoid dangerous situations on the jobsites. The Department of Reinforcing is a stakeholder in the initiative to amend the California OSHA Rebar Standard. We support and are committed to an industry coalition petition to adopt new Title 8, Section 1712 Safety Standards for Reinforcing Steel & Post-Tensioning Activities. Current OSHA standards written in 1971 are antiquated, and do not address serious hazards and incident trends occurring in the reinforcing steel industry. Our goal is to have zero accidents on the job and ensure our contractors have a safe environment for our workers so they can come home to their families and friends.

The threats to the industry are still present. More recently we have seen the push of wood usage instead of poured and placed concrete. Multi-family residential units are being built at five stories or more using wood. The primary hotspots were Oregon and New York. Total wood resources are at $19 million with a team of approximately 55 people committed to market the use of wood over poured and placed concrete or reinforcing steel. Estimates of 380 projects were converted to wood and half were three stories or more. The focused marketing campaigns from organizations and their aggressive approach could take some of the reinforcing market share.

The future for reinforcing remains positive with rebar usages continuing to increase from now to 2017, but it is imperative that we stand united in order for us to tackle the manpower shortages and keep workers union and safe – because nonunion is not an option!