Construction Worker vs. Contractor: What’s the Difference?

Published Categorized as Project Management
Construction Worker vs Contractor

For any construction project to run smoothly, there has to be a construction worker and a contractor. However, few people understand the difference between the two terms.

A construction worker is a laborer employed in a construction site to perform a wide range of practical tasks that require physical strength. A contractor is a person or company hired to provide labor, materials, equipment, and services needed for the smooth running of the project.

This article has been compiled to give you a clear look at the differences between these two essential construction industry parties. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is a Construction Worker?

A construction worker, also known as a construction laborer, is employed to handle various practical tasks in a construction site to foster a smooth operation flow. Generally, a construction laborer works under the instructions of the site supervisor or construction manager.

The work handled by construction workers ranges from very easy to extremely difficult and physically demanding tasks.

Most of the construction worker’s tasks require little or no training. In fact, most of these positions only call for a hardworking, dedicated, fast learner, and physically fit personnel.

Key Responsibilities of a Construction Worker

Construction workers are needed in almost every phase of the construction project, and some of their responsibilities include:

  • Cleaning and preparing the construction site by sweeping, removing debris, garbage, and other hazardous materials.
  • Loading, offloading, and arranging building materials needed for construction.
  • Measuring and mixing concrete, cement, and other raw materials.
  • Digging holes, tunnels, trenches, and shafts to prepare for construction.
  • Transporting as well as operating heavy machinery and other construction equipment.
  • Assisting experts such as painters, plumbers, and electricians where need be.
  • Following construction instructions from the site supervisor and other people whom they are working for.

Construction workers perform physically demanding tasks; they are expected to operate heavy equipment, carry heavy loads and even contour their bodies to fit in difficult-to-reach areas such as tunnels.

Their work is also based outdoors under harsh weather conditions. Weak and physically unfit people shouldn’t work as construction workers.

What Is a Contractor?

A contractor is an individual or firm hired to provide labor, equipment, services, and material required for the smooth running of the project. Contractors analyze the architect’s designs and use them to formulate a bid package on how much they expect the project to cost.

These costs include the contractor’s fees, overhead costs, profit margin, and the projected completion timeline. They then submit their bids to the owner for consideration through a bid system.

Once hired, a contractor assumes the responsibility of overseeing the daily operations of the construction site; they get to determine the best approaches to complete the project as per the owner’s needs.

And since contractors don’t have expertise in all the construction phases, they are in charge of hiring subcontractors who are experts in various fields such as electricians, plumbers, and interior designers.

Normally, most contractors have a well-established go-to network of subcontractors, saving the owner the headache of shopping around for experts and specialists, which is often expensive and time-consuming.

Key Responsibilities of Contractors

Besides hiring subcontractors, contractors in the construction field have other responsibilities, which vary depending on the phase of the project, be it project planning, legal issues, management, control and monitoring, and site safety. Some of their key responsibilities include:

  • Meeting all the legal requirements based on the nature of the project.
  • Applying for building permits.
  • Planning all the vital project developments and their implementation.
  • Determining the appropriate equipment and materials to be used in different construction phases and planning their procurement.
  • Managing the disposal of generated waste.
  • Establishing and maintaining a smooth flow of crucial information among all the involved parties.
  • Ensuring an efficient flow of funds to keep the project running.
  • Creating and submitting progress reports to justify any intermediate payments made to suppliers and subcontractors.
  • Ensuring construction site safety.
  • Using cost-effective construction methods.

Construction Worker vs. Contractor

Here is a table of comparisons between a construction worker and a contractor.

DescriptionConstruction workerContractor
DefinitionA laborer employed to handle manual tasks in a construction site that requires physical strength.An individual or firm hired to provide the necessary labor, equipment, materials, and services needed for the smooth running of a construction project.
Work delegationWorks in line with the site supervisor’s or construction manager’s instructions.May work independently or based on the owner’s instructions.
Skills and expertiseNo specific level of expertise is needed. However, construction workers need to be physically fit, dedicated and fast learners.Contractors need experience in the construction industry. In most cases, registration or licensing certification is required. It’s also vital that they have a well-established go-to network of subcontractors for ease of hiring.
Key responsibilitiesPerforms manual tasks under the instructions of the site supervisor or other construction experts to ensure a smooth flow of operations.Has the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the construction project.
SalaryAccording to Glassdoor, the mean annual average salary of a construction worker in the United States is $38,514.The mean annual average salary of a contractor in the United States is approximately $76,671.
Insurance PolicyThe employer pays for any required insurance premiums to mitigate the risks likely to be encountered by their construction workers.Pays for their own contractor general liability insurance premiums.
Work complexityHandles physically demanding tasks.Handles less physically demanding duties.

Despite being in different ranks in construction projects, both the construction worker and the contractor are essential persons in the construction industry. A contractor needs a construction worker to handle manual construction-related tasks.

On the other hand, a construction worker needs a contractor to form a basis for delegation of duties and create a safe working environment while ensuring befitting and timely wages.

Bottom Line

Every construction project needs construction workers and contractors for smooth flow operations to its completion.

Construction workers come in handy in handling manual tasks that are physically demanding while contractors oversee the smooth running of the project to completion.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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