Construction Trades Helpers and Labourers - What They Do

Construction trades helpers and labourers assist skilled tradespersons and perform labouring activities at construction sites, in quarries and in surface mines. They are employed by construction companies, trade and labour contractors, and surface mine and quarry operators.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Load and unload construction materials, and move materials to work areas
  • Erect and dismantle concrete forms, scaffolding, ramps, catwalks, shoring and barricades required at construction sites
  • Mix, pour and spread materials such as concrete and asphalt
  • Assist tradespersons such as carpenters, bricklayers, cement finishers, roofers and glaziers in construction activities
  • Assist heavy equipment operators to secure special attachments to equipment, signal operators to guide them in moving equipment and provide assistance in other activities
  • Assist in aligning pipes and perform related activities during oil and gas pipeline construction
  • Assist in drilling and blasting rock at construction sites
  • Assist miners in excavating and in setting up and operating various drills and other surface mining machinery
  • Level earth to fine grade specifications using rake and shovel
  • Assist in demolishing buildings using prying bars and other tools, and sort, clean and pile salvaged materials
  • Remove rubble and other debris at construction sites using rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and other equipment
  • Operate pneumatic hammers, vibrators and tampers as directed
  • Tend or feed machines or equipment used in construction such as mixers, compressors and pumps
  • Clean up chemical spills and other contaminants, and remove asbestos and other hazardous materials
  • Oil and grease hoists and similar equipment
  • Direct traffic at or near construction sites
  • Perform other activities at construction sites, as directed.

Job titles

  • asphalt spreader
  • concrete mixer helper
  • drywall sander
  • roofer helper
  • plumber helper
  • pipeline mandrel operator
  • glazier helper
  • stabber - pipeline construction
  • construction labourer
  • construction helper
  • demolition worker
  • bricklayer helper
  • carpenter helper
  • labourer, concrete paving
  • labourer, excavation
  • flagman/woman
  • driller helper - surface mining
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Some experience as a general construction labourer may be required for construction trade helpers.
  • Some pipeline workers, such as stabbers, mandrel operators and pre-heater tenders, usually require one season of experience in oil and gas pipeline construction.
  • Flagmen/women may require a traffic control certificate.

Essential Skills


  • Read instructions and warnings written on signs, labels and packaging, e.g. read warning labels on tools to learn about shock hazards. (1)
  • Read short text entries on forms and technical drawings, e.g. read comments on forms to learn about delivery schedules. (1)
  • Read notices and bulletins, e.g. read notices from workers' compensation boards to learn about workplace hazards and incidents. (2)
  • Read a variety of instructions and procedures, e.g. read step-by-step instructions to learn how to mix mortars and clean parts. (2)
  • Read safety-related information, e.g. read safety rules and regulations governing fall protection, confined spaces and other hazards. (3)
  • May read trade journals, brochures and website articles to learn about new products and construction technologies. (3)
  • May read manuals, e.g. read manuals to learn how to inspect and operate equipment, such as forklifts. (3)

Document use

  • Scan labels on product packaging and equipment to locate specifications, times, safety information and identification numbers. (1)
  • View digital readouts, e.g. scan readings on survey equipment to determine grades and slopes. (1)
  • Refer to lists, e.g. scan parts lists to identify identification numbers and quantities. (1)
  • Complete a variety of forms, e.g. complete check boxes and enter data, such as dates, identification numbers and times, in equipment inspection forms and invoices. (2)
  • Locate data, such as dates, times and dimensions, in tables, e.g. scan conversion charts to determine the required size of drill bits. (2)
  • May interpret technical drawings including floor plans, schematics and assembly drawings, e.g. study construction drawings to determine the location and size of door and window openings. (3)


  • Write short comments in log books, e.g. write short comments in log books to record the outcome of safety inspections. (1)
  • Write short notes to co-workers, e.g. write short notes to co-workers to inform them about defective equipment. (1)
  • May write text entries in forms, e.g. enter information into change order forms to record unexpected work. (2)
  • May write short reports to describe events leading up to workplace accidents, e.g. write about injuries and events when completing reports for workers' compensation boards. (2)


  • May purchase supplies using petty cash and receive change. (1)
  • Take a variety of measurements using basic tools, e.g. measure the height of doorways and the angle of brackets. (1)
  • Measure the dimensions and angles of building materials using basic tools, such as tape measures and protractors. (1)
  • Compare measurements to specifications, e.g. compare the size of window openings to the dimensions found on floor plans. (1)
  • May estimate distances by pacing out metres. (1)
  • Calculate material requirements, e.g. calculate the amount of water needed to mix specified amounts of mortar. (2)
  • May calculate averages, e.g. use several reading to calculate average cylinder pressures. (2)
  • May estimate quantities, e.g. estimate the number of pipes needed to complete a project. (2)
  • May estimate weights, e.g. estimate the weights of loads to be lifted by hoists. (2)
  • May take precise measurements using specialized measuring instruments, e.g. use calipers to measure the diameters of milled rods. (3)

Oral communication

  • Speak to suppliers to learn about products, prices and delivery schedules. (1)
  • Exchange information with co-workers and other tradespeople, e.g. talk to supervisors to learn about job assignments and to coordinate activities and schedules. (2)
  • Participate in group discussions, e.g. discuss safety, goals, procedures, job time-frames and projects during staff meetings. (2)
  • Listen to instructions, e.g. listen to step-by-step instructions to learn how to operate equipment, such as hoists and power-actuated tools. (3)


  • Encounter delays due to material shortages. They inform supervisors of the shortages and contact suppliers to arrange deliveries. They perform other work until the needed supplies arrive. (1)
  • Decide the order of tasks, e.g. decide the order in which to construct floors, walls and rafters. (1)
  • Choose the tools to accomplish tasks, e.g. consider the type of tasks to be performed and the tools available to them. (1)
  • Find out the schedule of activities by reviewing work orders and by speaking with co-workers, tradespeople and supervisors. (1)
  • Encounter delays due to equipment breakdowns. They inform supervisors about equipment breakdowns and perform other work until repairs are completed. They may attempt to troubleshoot and repair the equipment themselves. (2)
  • Decide how to perform work safely. They consider requirements for personal protective equipment and hazards to themselves and others. (2)
  • Are asked to perform unsafe work. They speak with supervisors to clarify their requests and refuse to perform work they consider unsafe. They follow legislated right to refuse unsafe work policies until satisfactory outcomes are achieved. (2)
  • May decide whether parts are reusable or should be rebuilt, e.g. consider the condition of parts and their replacement cost. (2)
  • Decide to report unsafe work conditions. They act on requirements to report unsafe work conditions by discussing their concerns and decisions with co-workers and supervisors. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of work sites. They observe electrical, slipping and fall hazards and the location of safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers. They take note of other potential hazards, such as improperly stored tools, broken equipment and confined spaces. (2)
  • Evaluate the performance of equipment. They consider the speed and accuracy of equipment outputs. (2)
  • Evaluate the quality of construction. They take measurements, check alignments and physically test the elements they constructed. (2)
  • Take direction for most of their activities from forepersons or more senior persons onsite, although they often determine their priorities independently. There is little autonomy and their activities must be co-ordinated with the work of others. Plans may be adjusted due to interruptions, such as unexpected rain or snow, the late arrival of supplies or rush orders. (2)
  • Find information on the operation and maintenance of new equipment by looking in equipment instruction manuals and by talking to co-workers and trainers employed by equipment manufacturers. (2)
  • Refer to floor plans and specifications and speak to co-workers to learn about construction projects. (2)

Digital technology

  • May send text messages to update co-workers on progress being made on projects. (1)
  • Use calculators and personal digital assistants (PDA) to complete numeracy-related tasks. (1)
  • May use databases to retrieve inventory counts and order supplies. (2)
  • May use communication software to exchange email with suppliers and co-workers. (2)
  • Access online information, such as bulletins posted by suppliers, manufacturers, unions and associations. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by apprenticeship trainers, suppliers, employers and associations. (2)
  • May use digital multimeters and scan tools to measure current, voltage and resistance. (2)
  • May use laptop computers to complete topographical surveys and generate diagrams. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

For the most part, construction trades helpers and labourers work with a journeyperson or apprentice, or they work independently to accomplish their assigned tasks. They may work as a member of a team on large jobs, such as when working with heavy equipment.

Continuous Learning

Construction trades helpers and labourers have a recurring requirement to learn. This includes learning about new work materials and new construction procedures, as well as taking part in safety, first aid, apprenticeship or computerized surveying programs. Workers in the unionized construction sector, for which the union is the hiring hall, often take part in union-sponsored training programs.