Sheet metal workers, also known as platers, make a variety of metal products including pipes, cylinders, panels and containers. They work with materials such as steel, copper, aluminium and brass. The products are used in many sectors from aerospace and rail transport to engineering and construction.
Metal workers work with sheets of metal for lighter products such as car panels, while platers work with heavier, thicker plates used in heavy industry, for instance, oil and gas platform construction.
Following diagrams, engineering drawings, blueprints or written instructions, workers mark out and cut metal sections to the required shape and size. To do this, they use hand and power tools or machines, such as presses and rollers. Products are also finished using tools such as grinders to smooth rough edges.
Depending on the project, sheets or plates are joined using riveting, welding and bolting methods or drilled with holes for later assembly.
Some of the measuring and cutting work is now done using computer-controlled equipment.
Sheet metal workers usually work a 37- to 39-hour week, which may include shifts. Overtime is common.
Workers wear protective clothing, safety footwear and hard hats and masks, for instance, when welding. Sheet metal workers work on site or in workshops where conditions can be noisy, hot and dirty.
As a sheet metal worker you should:
Sheet metal workers and platers work in manufacturing industries such as car, aircraft, ventilation equipment and office furniture manufacture. They also work for engineering and civil engineering companies involved in projects that require the fabrication of large metal structures, such as oil rigs and storage tanks.
Most sheet metal work is available in the Midlands, north-east, south Wales, London and the south-east of England.
Heavy engineering companies and bases of engineering construction companies, which employ platers, tend to be in Scotland and the north of England. There are also opportunities to work abroad.
Promotion is usually to supervisor or foreman/woman, and from there to middle management. It is possible for platers and sheet metal workers who have completed their craft training to move on to train as engineering technicians. See the profile for engineering construction technician.
It is possible for sheet metal workers to start their own business.
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