Edward F. Carlough, 81, the president emeritus of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (AFL-CIO) and a pioneer in negotiating health, welfare and pension plans in the construction industry, died July 9 at his home in Alexandria. He had a respiratory ailment.

Mr. Carlough was born in the Bronx, N.Y. He served in the Navy in the early 1920s and then began his apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker. He became a journeyman in Local 28 in New York City in 1927.

He soon became interested in union affairs and in 1941 was elected president and business manager of Local 28. He also was a vice president of the Building Trades Council of New York City and in 1945 became a general vice president of the Sheet Metal Workers International, which now represents about 150,000 workers.

He moved to the Washington area in 1951 as general secretary-treasurer of the union. He was elected general president in 1959 and reelected in 1962 and 1966. He also was a vice president in the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. In 1970, having reached retirement age, he stepped down and was elected general president emeritus.

Mr. Carlough negotiated the first health and welfare plan in the building and construction trades industry in 1946 while still head of Local 28. Four years later, he successfully negotiated the first pension plan in the construction industry, again for Local 28.

During the Korean War, he was a member of the Wage Adjustment Board. He proposed that 7 1/2 cents an hour be set aside for health and welfare programs. The Wage Stabilization Board implemented this proposal.

The Sheet Metal Workers pension fund now has more than $400 million in assets and has paid out more than $60 million in benefits over the past 30 years.

In 1981, the Edward P. Carlough Distinguished Professorship of Labor Law was established at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Mr. Carlough's survivors include his wife, Florence, of Alexandria; three children, Grace Hagan of West Islip, N.Y., Edward J. Carlough of Rockville and Walter W. Carlough of Arlington; a sister, Grace Weigel of New Hyde Park, N.Y.; eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.