A steeplejack is a specialist builder who is prepared to work at heights on factory chimneys, church steeples and other similarly high buildings. Fred Dibner is a famous steeplejack in England, who has his own television show, about blowing up old factory chimneys.
The main skill perceived to be necessary is the ability to work at great heights. This is not really a skill at all. The steeplejack must be competent in the main building areas like carpentry, brick laying and tiling, but that is all. Really he is a Jack of all Trades who works while hanging from a sling.
Like other rope access jobs, it is seen as dangerous by those not employed in it, but with modern safety regulations it carries lower risks than ordinary building site jobs do. Most people just imagine themselves up there and think the person at the top of the tower must be very brave. Bravery does not come into it, though. There is no risk if harnesses and safety lines are in good condition and safety procedures followed.
A steeplejack will never climb up without a safety harness and safety equipment, so he or she can not fall. Roofing workers on building sites rarely bother with safety ropes, harnesses and equipment, so have many more accidents than steeplejacks.
A steeplejack will erect ladders and working platforms from which masonry repairs (brick, stone or concrete), general carpentry, painting or roof repair can be carried out. The steeplejack is also commonly asked to remove, clean and repair windows, as well as sandblasting and other masonry cleaning tasks.
Steeplejacks are difficult to find and any climber or any builder with a good head for heights should consider becoming a specialist steeplejack. Rates of pay are higher than normal building sector pay because of the high perceived risk that the job carries.
A steeplejack will never work on his own, for safety reasons, but contractors are usually small business operations. If you are struggling to find one then just search online, or in the Yellow Pages.
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