A rigger can do a number of different things, depending on which industry he or she is employed in. Numerous sectors including entertainment, manufacturing, and the military sector have job positions known as “riggers” and people in these positions do very different things. All of the senses of this word have their origins in the days of sail, when people responsible for setting and maintaining the sails were known as riggers, named for the rigging which was used to hold the sails up and control them. This provided sailors with a set of unique skills which proved to be useful on land as well.
In industry, a rigger is someone who moves heavy loads, or who deals with placement of heavy machines. This includes people who work on construction sites, individuals who install heavy and specialized equipment like MRI machines, and so forth. Riggers of this type can use equipment which might have been familiar to sailors centuries ago such as block and tackle haulers, in addition to cranes and other more sophisticated equipment. This type of job is learned through apprenticeship, and requires physical fitness, a high degree of skill, and the ability to work cooperatively.
The entertainment industry also has a place for riggers. Riggers who work in entertainment handle the installation of sets, and any movement which needs to happen, including moving set pieces and actors on flies. Riggers can be part of the crew which travels with a production, and they can also be based in a particular facility. Like heavy load lifters, entertainment riggers use a variety of equipment to do their work.
In the military, personnel known as parachute riggers are responsible for packing parachutes and inspecting them. This job requires extensive training and a sharp eye for detail, because safety risks need to be identified before a parachute is distributed and used. Likewise, the military also uses riggers for heavy moving in all branches of the military, along with setup of military installations.
The term “rigger” may be used in the sense of someone who sets things up and prepares them for use, whether or not traditional rigging is involved. In this case, the rigger performs safety checks, makes sure that everything is in place, and is involved in unpacking and rebuilding of objects which are broken down for shipping or storage. Working as this type of rigger can be interesting because it often provides opportunities for travel.