We’ve all seen the gifs and social media jokes where a huge hole in the ground is surrounded by a dozen workers wearing high visibility vests, steel top-capped boots and hard hats, staring aimlessly into the dark abyss before them.
The image will show confused expressions, head-scratching, and a headline asking something like, “how many people does it take to fill a hole.”
Peer on to any construction site, and you might see a similar event—a gaggle of bright yellow beings moving around the site like pieces on a chessboard.
But who are all these people, and why are there often so many people on a construction site? Let’s look at the key roles that help manage and run a construction site.
Who is based on a construction site?
Who are the guys and gals that are there day in and day out, unless it’s a sunny Friday afternoon or St Patrick’s day?
Looking at the type of construction sites that are most familiar, residential, the number of people on-site and their roles will depend on the size of the project.
However, the most link people you will bump into are:
- Project Director / Manager – The head honcho, responsible for getting the project built on time and on budget. They will oversee all aspects of the build, with the site management reporting to them. Often skilled at spinning several plates at once, they will deal with immediate issues as well as strategising for further down the line. Depending on when appointed, the Project Director / Manager may be involved earlier in the project’s life and manage any planning applications along with the whole design process. The Project Director / Project Manager will report to a Construction Director, the Board or a company owner.
- Senior Site Manager – Depending on the size of the project, the Senior Site Manager may be the most senior person on site and report directly to a Construction Director or business owner. Unlike the Project Director, the Senior Site Manager will be more hands-on, focusing on the nitty-gritty of the construction works. For example, what’s on the programme, have materials been ordered, are trades lined up to start on site, ensuring reports are completed like site attendance and accident reports.
- Site Manager – For a small project, it might be sufficient to have just a Site Manager, possibly aided by an assistant, to run the site. On a larger project, they may assist the Senior Site Manager in running the project. Also, you can have more than one Site Manager should the project require it, as parts of the site can be assigned to different Site Managers. The Site Manager is usually the main and first point of contact for any trades on site needing direction or information, ensuring Health and Safety standards are met, that Site Inductions are carried out for new workers etc.
- Assistant Site Manager – Arriving from college or ‘off the tools,’ an Assistant Site Manager will be keen to learn from the Site Manager on how best to run a project—gaining experience on how to deal with problems and how to manage the site operatives. It’s an excellent role for a company to train someone up whilst lending support to the Site Management team at a lower cost.
- Finishing Forman – Arriving at the project a little later than others, a Finishing Forman will see plots over the line, ensuring they are completed to the specified standard and required specification.
- Quantity Surveyor – Office based and overseeing several projects or looking after the one site where they can be site based. The Quantity Surveyor will tender the works for all the subcontract packages, evaluate the suitability of subcontractors for the project, review quotes, hold interviews and appoint. During the build, they will review progress and agree payments in line with an agreed payment schedule and the progress on site. Before final accounting, when all is said and done. Internally, they will work with a Commercial Manager or Director to compile financial reports on spend to date and forecast cost to complete versus the budget.
- Buyer – A buyer will look after the items that aren’t part of the subcontract packages that the Quantity Surveyor has placed. Whether materials, labour, site accommodation etc. They may work to national agreements or obtain their own quotes before placing orders.
- Document Controller – Filling the administrational and secretarial support on-site, pulling together digital plans and reports, generating and filing hard copies for the site, and ensuring that there is a shared information portal that is kept up to date and organised.
- Design Manager – Once again, it’s project-dependent whether this role is used at all or if it’s office or site-based. Either way, taking over from a Pre-Commencement Manager or Project Manager, the Design Manager will be the point of liaison between the site and the design team of architects, engineers and other consultants. They will review and check that drawings are correct and that the site uses the latest revisions. The Design Manager will often be a qualified architect or have a technical background.
- Engineer – a vital role to ensure that buildings are constructed as they should be and in the right place. An engineer will set out coordinates and dimensions, check levels and undertake site surveys. In addition, they will check plans and liaise with the design teams as required.
- Gateman / Banksman – A role sometimes combined with site security, ensuring that only the right things are coming into and going off-site. They can aid larger vehicles when manoeuvring, such as reversing out onto a road or a forklift in a tight area.
- Security – During working hours, this is usually a role taken up by a Gateman / Banksman, but once the site quietens as the workers head for home, sites can become vulnerable to thieves and vandals. Security is therefore paramount to avoid loss of materials or machinery and any subsequent knock-on delays as time is lost to replace what has been taken or damaged.
- Labourer / Cleaners – Keeping the offices, toilets, canteens and construction areas tidy and therefore safer. A Labourer is likely to help distribute materials around the site and lend a hand in certain areas.
- Crane Driver – A temporary mobile crane or more permanent static and tower cranes need a driver who will spend most of their day in the cab, moving heavy or bulk materials around the site as required.
- Forklift Driver – Similar principal to the crane driver but more mobile. Utilised on-site until most of the building materials have been distributed, and little more needs moving around the site.
- Canteen Staff – Mostly just a cabin with some tables and chairs that will only need the attention of the cleaning staff, but some sites will have catering on site.
- Sales Staff – If there are sales to be made, bet your bottom dollar that there’ll be a sales presence on-site as early as possible, whether in a sales suite (cabin) or the first house/apartment to be completed.
Who else visits a construction site?
The above breakdown is not an all-inclusive list as each site can be run differently. In addition to those listed above, there will be a plethora of regular visitors too, whether to check on their staff or the progress of the project:
- Managing Director
- Pre-Construction Director / Manager
- Development Director / Manager
- Construction Director / Manager
- Contracts Manager
- Commercial Director / Manager
- Technical Director
- Technical Manager
- Sales Manager / Directors
- Health and Safety (could also be a consultant)
- Civils Engineer
- Structural Engineer
- Mechanical and Electrical Engineer
- Landscaping Architect / Designer
- Acoustic Consultant
- Fire Consultant
- Building Control
- Building Warranty
- Local Authority
- Utilities and drainage
By no means is this an exhaustive list. Still, it shines a light on the number of people involved in putting a construction team together and, moreover, why the cost of construction can be so high when you need such a variety of specialists involved.
It also highlights how imperative it is to get the site provisions correct, ensuring there are enough facilities to cater for a potentially large number of site workers. And we haven’t mentioned the trades.
Also, if you have this many people on-site, or sales staff taking potential clients around, your traffic management plan must be fit for use where pedestrians are kept safe and visible whilst on site.
Photo by sol on Unsplash
About Matthew Griffiths
Matthew takes great pleasure in combining his two professions. One has seen him give two decades of service to the construction industry, from roles as an Estimator through to sitting on Boards. The second is his passion for the written word. He now has the best of both worlds, building homes and constructing written content.