Steeplejacks and lightning conductor engineers install lightning protection systems and carry out a variety of building, repair, maintenance and renovation work at heights on the inside and outside of tall structures. These can include industrial chimneys, power station cooling towers, tower blocks, church spires and bridges. They may also work on restoration projects on historical monuments such as castles.
Depending on the type of building or structure, a number of tools and techniques may be employed to reach the work area. These include access ladders, scaffolding, work platforms (cradles), traditional bosun’s seats (harnesses) and industrial rope access (abseiling). Fall arrest systems are also put in place to minimise risks to operatives. Once the job is complete, equipment and rigging is dismantled and returned to ground level.
Other tasks include painting, inspection, welding, demolition, replacing glass, erecting and dismantling steel chimneys, and fitting aircraft warning lights on tall structures.
Steeplejacks work a 39-hour week but hours vary with the demands of the job; shifts and overtime, including evenings and weekends are often required.
The work is mainly outdoors at heights, in all weathers, and includes climbing and carrying ladders, tools and safety equipment. Conditions can be very dusty, especially inside industrial chimneys and may therefore be unsuitable for people suffering from chest complaints. Protective clothing and headgear is worn.
Travel to different parts of the country and abroad is often necessary. Depending on the contract, steeplejacks may have to work away from home for periods of time. A driving licence is useful.
To be a steeplejack you should:
Nearly all employment is with specialist firms of steeplejacks/lightning conductor engineers. A very small number are employed by building or civil engineering companies. Within the specialist firms, promotion to supervisory and managerial posts is possible. There are good opportunities for self-employment and to work abroad.
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