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Furnace Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Operates and tends furnaces, such as gas, oil, coal, electric-arc or electric induction, open-hearth, or oxygen furnaces, to melt and refine metal before casting or to produce specified types of steel.

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster Manufacturing Production pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Draws smelted metal samples from furnaces or kettles for analysis, and calculates types and amounts of materials needed to ensure that materials meet specifications.
  • Drains, transfers, or removes molten metal from furnaces, and places it into molds, using hoists, pumps, or ladles.
  • Records production data, and maintains production logs.
  • Operates controls to move or discharge metal workpieces from furnaces.
  • Weighs materials to be charged into furnaces, using scales.
  • Regulates supplies of fuel and air, or controls flow of electric current and water coolant to heat furnaces and adjusts temperatures.
  • Inspects furnaces and equipment to locate defects and wear.
  • Observes air and temperature gauges or metal color and fluidity, and turns fuel valves or adjusts controls to maintain required temperatures.
  • Observes operations inside furnaces, using television screens, to ensure that problems do not occur.
  • Removes impurities from the surface of molten metal, using strainers.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of special protective items such as a breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suit, or radiation protection
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Bending, stretching, twisting, or reaching
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing objects clearly in glaring conditions or bright lighting
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Seasonal work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Cadmium Burner -- Tends furnace and auxiliary equipment that heat cadmium to produce cadmium oxide.
  • Flux Tube Attendant -- Mixes flux for graphite tubes and replaces tubes and chemical supply tanks on aluminum remelt furnaces.
  • Kiln Firer -- Fires kilns to produce ceramic products.
  • Pig Machine Operator -- Operates pig machine to pour molten iron into molds to cast pig iron.
  • Pyrometer Operator -- Controls shrink-pit furnace to assemble hoops and liners to tubes to form cannon barrels.
  • Sinter Machine Operator -- Tends sintering machine and auxiliary equipment, for example conveyors, pug mill, and suction fan, to produce sinter cake from finely ground iron ore, lead, coke, and flue dust.
  • Zinc Skimmer --