What Does a General Laborer Do?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2014
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A general laborer is an unskilled worker who will perform various tasks within construction or industrial settings. The qualifications to become a general laborer are low, as no specific level of education or training is necessary, though the laborer may receive on the job training specific to the job he or she will perform. Most of the jobs the laborer will perform will be fairly simple and often repetitive; it is likely that the job will require a certain level of physical fitness, especially in construction settings.

Some of the tasks a general laborer may be responsible for include setting up or otherwise preparing a job site; assisting skilled laborers or performing preparatory tasks so the skilled laborers will not have to; operating various pieces of machinery; and tearing down a job site when a job is completed. The setup or preparation phase may include cordoning off an area, setting up road cones or fencing, haul equipment to the site, hold stop signs or direct traffic, and transport materials to and from the site. Once the job site is prepared and skilled laborers and managers move in, the general laborer will be responsible for performing any task assigned to him or her by superiors. This may include digging holes, operating various machinery, setting up scaffolding, acting as a guide for heavy machinery operators, and so on.


Once a job is complete, the general laborer will be responsible for cleaning up any leftover raw materials, breaking down and storing scaffolding for transport, packing up tools and machinery, tearing down fences or cones, and otherwise cleaning up the site so it can be used on a regular basis. These are all construction tasks, though a general laborer can work in other settings that may be inside a factory or in another outdoor location. An unskilled laborer in a factory may, for example, work on an assembly line as an inspection worker, a packaging worker, or as an assembler who installs various components into an item to be manufactured.

General laborers usually get paid minimum wage or better. If he or she wants to get paid more, the general laborer will need to take part in training that will qualify him or her for a higher position. Education is another way to move up within a company; manufacturers and construction companies are increasingly interested in hiring employees with at least a high school education, if not some post-secondary schooling.


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