Management of Site Staff and Direct Labour

Modified: 13th Aug 2018
Wordcount: 5436 words

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The physical resources in a construction project account for a considerable amount of money and time. It is fundamental to the success of a construction project that these physical resources are managed and scheduled properly.

Patrick (2004) comments that resource management is one of the most important aspects of construction project management in today’s climate because the construction industry is resource-intensive and the costs of construction resources have steadily risen over the last several decades.

“Good project management in construction must vigorously pursue the efficient utilization of labour, material and equipment.” (Hendrickson, 2008)

It is the role of the project manager and site management team to ensure that the three main physical resources: labour, plant and materials, are managed efficiently and effectively. Failure to do so will result in delays and often expense caused by situations like resource shortage, resource queuing, poor plant productivity and poor labour relations.

According to the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), (2010 p67) the main roles of the project manager during the construction phase include;

  • Ensuring contract documents are prepared and issued to the contractor.
  • Reviewing the contractor’s construction schedule and method statements.
  • Ensuring the contractor’s resources are adequate and suitable.
  • Ensuring design information required by the contractor is supplied by consultants.

These roles all include scheduling and management of physical resources, which include;

  • Site staff and direct labour
  • Plant
  • Materials
  • Information
  • Sub Contractors

These are similar to the 5 m’s as specified by Griffith and Watson (2004 p118)

When considering resources there are five factors to take into account (the 5Ms) –

  1. Materials
  2. Manpower
  3. Machinery
  4. Money
  5. Management

As labour constitutes a large percentage of the construction cost and the quantity of labour hours performing a task are more susceptible to the influence of management than are materials and plant, it is important it is managed correctly and efficiently. On this project Farrans manage many different sub-contractors who have a workforce ranging from 2 – 40 people, as these people are not under the direct control of Farrans management team it will be discussed in the next chapter “Management of sub-contractors”.

The authors feel it is paramount to the success and profitability of a project to manage the workforce successfully as “construction workforce especially in developing countries is not seen as an important input, although project labour generally make up the most variable and the largest percentage of total project costs”(Journal of civil engineering and management 2008,p1).

3.1 Planning of Site Staff and Direct Labour Employed by Farrans

Labour is usually planned for before the construction work begins using ASTA Power Project to construct a programme similar to that used to produce the construction program. By using this system it again allows the site team to highlight areas where a labour shortage might occur. In theory this program allows adequate time for the project manager to allocate more labour to labour intensive work; this is done by making a formal request to their head office team for extra labour.

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Ultimately it is the site mangers responsibility to ensure the site has an adequate workforce whether it is labourers or sub-contractors. The clerk of works also have an input and can offer their opinion on whether more labour is needed. At each monthly meeting a scheduled review should take place to determine the following month’s activities and to determine the resources needed.

Farrans enforce and strictly adhere to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 regarding health and safety. They value the health, safety and welfare of all people on their sites and are only too aware of the dangers that construction sites pose. Also as the main contractor they realize that a severe accident can cause delay or even shutdown of a site.

Farrans recognise the importance of training and basic health and safety awareness. It is for this reason, that they enforce a policy where only people who hold a Construction Skills Register (CSR) card or equivalent are allowed to work on their sites. The aims of these registration schemes are to raise standards of health and safety and provide recognition of skills, experience and qualifications attained.

To ensure all workers on site hold a valid CSR card, Farrans make it mandatory to provide proof before any operative can start work. In order to ensure that this is being enforced by the main contractor we will monitor the site induction file and do spot checks to ensure records are up to date and anyone not holding this card will not be permitted to work on-site.

3.2 Daily Allocation Sheets

Each day the site manager in theory should hold two labour allocation sheets (a copy of which can be seen in appendix 3).; One created by the site manager for Farrans direct labour and one created by each individual sub-contractor which is then passed onto the project manager. This sheet contains the tasks done each day by each labourer as well as the number of hours spent doing that task. At the end of the week these sheets are forwarded to Farrans head office via citrix system, in order to calculate labourer’s weekly hours and pay.

These sheets proof useful in order to evaluate labour productivity on-site. It provides valuable insight into how long a task should take, and can be helpful in forecasting the amount of labour for the following tasks. It also allows the site manager to check if any labourers are “slacking”, for example if it took one labourer, 2 hours, to do task A ,on week one then it should take the next labourer a similar time to do a similar job.

3.3 Discipline

Management of labour inherently involves disputes among direct labour and between sub-contractors. It is the job of the site manager to mediate these disputes unofficially but were site rules are broken staff will face disciplinary proceedings. These matters must be resolved quickly in order to remain focused and on schedule. If further action is required the case will be dealt with by Farrans head office team. This two

3.4 Holidays and Training

Farrans like most Northern Ireland construction companies, offer employees two week holidays twice a year at Christmas and the July fortnight. When time off is required outside these periods a holiday request form must be completed which is held in the site managers office. This request form must be submitted with details of time off and must give at least two weeks notice. This notice is used to find cover.

3.5 Conclusion and Recommendations

One area of labour Farrans could improve on is employee’s motivation. Farrans do not provide overtime payment for their Site management team. Staff sign a contract which says they will not get paid for more than 39 hours work per week. Therefore employees have no incentive to work extra hours and may feel obliged to work more than 39 hours which will reduce motivation, especially as periods of the construction project will require 60 hours per week with no reward.

Another recommendation we would make is that Farrans hold meeting between rank and file workers and their management team. This motivates site staff and makes them feel part of the team, as often rank and file workers feel uncomfortable with their boss.

A research study into construction labour motivation carried out by the business roundtable (1989, online) found that;

“Workers who are actively involved in decisions that affect them are more receptive to change, work harder as they develop more enthusiasm, become more loyal to the employer, do not suffer from job alienation, experience greater job satisfaction, and show increased morale and creativity. Employers benefit from better worker-management relations, increased productivity and increased profits”.

  • Appendix for Management of Site Staff and Direct Labour
  • Print- Copy of staff time sheet
  • Daily diary issue 1
  • Daily diary completed
  • Record of site operations

4.0 Management of Sub-contractors

Many large contracting firms rely heavily on the involvement of sub-contractors in order to undertake large scale projects. A study carried out by Karim et al (2006,online) found that “As much as 90 per cent of the construction work is carried out by a variety of subcontractors while the main contractor tends to focus on management and coordination”.

It is common in the industry for main contractor’s to operate solely as a management team, coordinating and scheduling sub-contractors on site. Sub-contractors are often specialised in one area, therefore they have the tools, experience and expertise to complete their task. This cannot be said for the main contractor.

“Sub-contractors have specialist expertise, usually trade related, for the supply and installation of an element of the total works” (CIOB 2010,p69)

The benefits of using sub-contractors are plentiful; it enables the main contractor to spread the risk by sub-contracting different elements of the project to sub-contractors at a reduced price than what they originally estimated the work for. Using specialist tradesmen allows for a higher quality of work by using specialist tools and equipment not available to the main contractor.

Sub-contracting reduces the amount of supervision that the site manager has to supply, it also reduces the number of personnel that the site team must manage. It benefits the site manager in that there is one single point of contact for each sub-contractor and task. Sub-contracting can reduce the administration costs for the main contractor, for example the main contractor is not responsible for human resources, staff holidays, direct training etc for sub-contractors personnel.

However, it must be noted that the main contractor is still responsible for the health and safety of the sub-contractors, health and safety responsibilities are defined by criminal law and cannot be passed from one party to another by law.

The success of any construction project can be directly influenced by the performance of the sub-contractors. Therefore the success of a project can be directly related to how the main contractor manages sub-contractors. This view is shared by Ronchi (2006) who comments

“The success of a project is, to an extent, related to the degree of collaboration and coordination existing among the actors involved”

The main contractor has the ultimate responsibility to deliver on cost, quality and time and therefore if is paramount to manage the sub-contractors and the supply chain effectively. Management systems must be implemented to ensure the smooth coordination of sub-contractors onto and off the site. This should be dictated by the project master programme, as outlined in section 2 of this document. The site management team must be capable of arranging sub-contractors to ensure this process is free flowing and continual. The disruption of sub-contractors site schedules can cause major delays to the project, the site team must make amendments to the schedule when delays do occur or when tasks can be brought forward.

This can reduce friction between sub-contractors and the main contractor and promotes Cooke and Williams view that (2004, p280)

“Good liaison and mutual respect must be established as early as possible in the contract period as possible and maintaining contact with subcontractors… helps to build up an early working relationship”

4.1 Management system employed by Farrans

Farrans operate as a management team on their site, with the aim to keep direct labour to a minimum. Farrans use strict programmes and meetings in order to control sub-contractors and ensure the sub-contractor is meeting quality, time and specification targets.

In order to satisfy Farrans Sustainable Procurement Policy they;

Request details from Sub-Contractors regarding environmental policies, management systems, environmental breaches, and assess this information as part of our Company approval process

Use local suppliers and Sub-Contractors where possible to minimise the environmental impact associated with transportation and to support the local economy

4.1.1 Meetings

“Meetings are required to maintain effective communications between the project manager, project team and the other parties concerned” (CIOB 2010, p230)

Meetings are in place to provide; effective communication between the main contractor and sub-contractor, address problems as they arise and to review progress as work continues. Farrans use two types of meetings; start up meetings and site meetings.

Start up meetings

Start up meeting take place after the sub-contractor has been chosen for the contract but before the sub-contractor starts work on-site. The meeting is held between the project manager, site manager, site engineer and sub contract manager. However in some cases not all members must be present only that of the project manager and sub contract manager is required.

The aim of these meetings is to firstly build a working relationship between the site team and sub-contractor. It also provides a way of outlining the scope of the task and “ironing out” any grey areas are areas of uncertainty before work commences.

It is the responsibility of the sub-contractor to provide all documentation relating to health and safety before site work begins, documentation includes:

  • Method Statements
  • Risk Assessments
  • Insurance Documents
  • Construction Skills Register Documents of the workforce

The meeting will also outline the attendances that are required from Farrans, as well as the time frame of their element of the project. It is the responsibility of Farrans to notify the sub-contractor when they are due on site it is therefore important for them to know how much notice they require before they can come to site.

Site Meetings

Once the sub-contractor has begun work on-site they must attend weekly site meetings. This meeting is held by the site manager, project manager, site engineer and all sub-contractor’s manager. Other attendees might be the quantity surveyor, architect, designers etc. This meetings takes place on site usually on a weekly basis, they are used to monitor progress.

It is the responsibility of the site manager to implement short term programmes derived from the master program . These weekly progress meetings enable Farrans to address any issues regarding programmes, it is also a useful way for sub-contractors to communicate between each other to make sure they are working in sync and that any delays which affect a follow on trade are communicated effectively. Any delay identified by the site team will be discussed at this meeting.

It is normal at these weekly meeting for an informal question and answer session to take place, where different sub-contractors can air any issues relating to the project, the result of these sessions are useful in projecting progress and allows sub-contractors to address their time schedule, for example if the plasterer start in one weeks time, and it will take the electrician ten days to finish their first fix then action needs to be taken whether it be, delay the plasterer or else use more resources and men to stay on schedule.

A weekly progress document is drawn up either before or after these meetings, as part of this document any health and safety issues are addresses including any accidents, near misses or complaints.

4.1.2 Inspection of Subcontractors Work

Monitoring the actual progress of sub-contractors can prove troublesome for the construction manager, where the construction manager has no experience in that field. For example construction managers have various backgrounds whether that be; site engineer, foreman or tradesman. A foreman may be competent in assessing progress of the interior fit out but unable to project progress of the structure.

It is for this reason that Farrans employ several other members to work on the project. They are known as clerk of works specialising in different elements of the project. These are broken down into mechanical and electrical, externals and fit-out. As the construction manager has not got the expertise or familiarity with this specialised work the clerk of works act as sub-contractor co-ordinators.

Once one element of the sub-contractors work is completed, it will be visually inspected by the clerk of works for quality and specification and either passed off or rejected. Once the work is complete and ready to be signed off the clerk, engineer and sib-contract manager will sign the specific check sheets.

4.1.3 Work Packages

Work packages are used to effectively manage sub-contractors more easily. It involves breaking down each task on the master program into specific sections and sub-sections, to which sub-contractors are assigned.

An example of Farrans works package breakdown can be viewed in the Appendix at the end of this section.Associate Considerate Constructor

4.1.4 Sub-Contractors Complaints

On occasion a complaint may be made from the general public, regulatory bodies, the client or site staff. These complaints must be logged into Farrans complaint log as shown in the figure below. This has the benefit of making sure the actual complaint does not “fall on deaf ears” and also so that action is taken to resolve the matter. This is an effective way of dispute resolution and promotes ambience between the parties involved and Farrans.

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Farrans are a member of the considerate constructors scheme a recognised initiative under the construction confederation, this initiative was set up to improve the image of construction. Dealing with complaints is a vital section of this initiative and as Farrans are a registered member they are “expected to deal in a considerate manner with any complaints or concerns resulting from the site’s activities”.

A template of Farrans Complaints Log can be viewed in the Appendix at the end of this section.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Farrans use programming as an effective tool to manage and co-ordinate sub-contractors. They use a standard Gantt chart and work packages in order to effectively plan their work. The Gantt chart is employed by most construction companies and simplifies a complex program by outlining clearly start, finish and duration of each sub-contractor. This allows close observation of the critical path and any conflicts that may appear.

After reviewing Farrans management of sub-contractors and reviewing relevant literature surrounding the topic of sub-contractor management the authors fell that Farrans have an effective framework running throughout their sites in order to mange and co-ordinate sub-contractors.

The authors feel that start up meetings and work packages are useful tools which are not adapted by all large contractors in Northern Ireland. One of the authors spent a year working with McAleer and Rushe, a design and build contractor based in Cookstown, Nothern Ireland. The first interaction between the site management team and the sub-contractor was the same day the sub-contractor was due to start work. This caused some confusion in that the sub-contractors usually showed up unexpectantly and no arrangements were in place for their task. Often sub-contractors showed up with no health and safety documents and their workforce were unaware that CSR identification was needed. This shows what can happen if sub-contractors are mismanaged.

As a well and long established leading construction firm, they have developed the necessary approach needed to avoid mismanagement of sub-contractors. Through years of experience they have adapted and fine tuned these methods in order to be successful.

Appendix for Coordination of Sub-Contractors

5.0 Management of Materials and Waste

5.1 Waste

Material waste has been recognised as a major problem for the construction industry, it has important implications for the efficiency of the industry as well as the environmental impact of the construction project.

It is estimated that the United Kingdom construction industry uses 400 million tonnes of resources every year with 100 million tonnes ending up as waste (CIOB 2010). Research carried out by CIRIA (undated, cited in CIOB, 2010 p199) estimates that as much as 13% of all materials delivered to site end up in a skip without ever being used.

The importance of waste management is demonstrated in England where it has become legal requirement from April 2008 to have site waste management plans (SWMPs) for all construction and demolition projects valued over £300,000.

It is ethical and has commercial value to prepare a SWMP for a development. The reason for this is to provide a framework for managing the disposal of waste throughout the life of the construction project. The rationale behind introducing a SWMP is to ensure that waste management is thought about from the outset and facilitate the selection of construction techniques and materials to effectively reduce waste.

A SWMP reduces waste by relying on a plan-do-check-action, which follows the figure below:.

Typically this action plan aims to reuse, reduce, recycle or recover materials on and off site and if none of these actions are suitable disposal is required. It is the principle contractor’s duty to enforce the plan as well as recording actual waste against the estimated figures, therefore checking the effectiveness of the plan.

The document is the main contractor’s responsibility during the construction stage and should contain the following information:

  • Ownership of the document
  • Information about who will be removing the waste
  • The types of waste to be removed
  • Details of the site(s) where the waste is being taken
  • A post-completion statement confirming that the SWMP was monitored and updated on a regular basis
  • An explanation of any deviation from the plan

An example of a standard SWMP recommended by the CIOB (2010 p72) can be seen in appendix 5.

(CIOB 2010, p72)

5.1.1 Farrans Waste Management

As part of Farrans waste minimisation police they have committed to:

  • Prevent and/or Reduce waste
  • Reuse materials
  • Recycle waste
  • Send minimum amounts of waste to landfill

To fulfil this commitment Farrans have implemented waste management plans on all their sites to ensure good waste management and cultivated a work ethic and awareness of waste minimisation. An important aspect of waste minimisation is to try and eradicate it through design which Farrans do.

Practically on-site Farrans reduce waste by organisation of the site layout which in return reduces waste caused by poor storage of materials, and prevents damage or theft where possible. The site has security 24 hours a day which again reduces theft. Sub-contractors are made aware penalties they face for producing excessive waste through bad workmanship and bad planning.

5.2 Materials

Strict monitoring of materials is both beneficial to the main contractor and the environment by;

  • Increasing profits
  • Decreasing overheads
  • Minimising waste and consequent disposal costs
  • Useful Marketing tool
  • Lessons for the future
  • Complying with CDM regulations

The CIOB (2010) believe that it is the duty of the project manager to not only monitor the project’s progress but to also monitor any work undertaken by suppliers that have an independent input into the completion of the project.

The contractor has overall responsibility for the management of the supply chain, the project manager’s duty is to ensure that the chain is managed efficiently to avoid potential delay or completion of the project. This is an important issue as it is often the case that problems further down the contractual chain are responsible for delays.

One technique that the CIOB (2010, p230) recommend during planning is;

The production of an outline construction schedule indicating the latest date for placement of orders (materials equipment contractors) and design release dates.

However, it is not important that every material is scheduled, it is only when major construction materials and materials concerned with the critical path lack scheduling that a disruption will occur.

Materials often arrive on site in three ways, on time, too early or too late with the latter often causing the most problems. Good scheduling will ensure that materials arrive on site on time.

When materials arrive on site too early the main problem is with storage. Storage on a construction site will often be limited. Storing materials on site for long periods can leave them susceptible to damage due to weather or accidental damage and vandalism and theft. Handling materials more than once will also increase the likelihood of accidental damage, for example storing materials in several locations before arriving at the actual location for use.

Materials arriving too late can cause a significant delay to the completion of the project. For example a week long delay in bricks will have a knock on effect to the fit out as the building as it will not be sealed on time. The contractor will then be liable for late fees for not handing over the development on time and will result in the client not being able to rent or sell units in the development.

Cooke and Williams (2004, p364) state that “The responsibility for handling materials, distribution around the site and fixing them in position belongs to the site manager, who is also responsible for material loss and accounting for excessive waste”.

5.2.1 Farrans Material Management

Materials Planning

Before construction work begins Farrans complete a materials schedule included in this schedule is major materials needed for construction. Some elements included in the project at Carmonney, Northern Ireland are concrete and reinforcing steel. These materials are essential to the critical path of the project. Farrans schedule such materials in order to allow for the manufacturer’s lead in time and so that they ultimately arrive on site, before or just in time.

Materials Inspection

Farrans check the quality and condition of all materials arriving on site, whether it be materials ordered by the main contractor or sub-contractors. Sub-contractors materials are checked to ensure specifications are as designed.

Material Orders

Farrans record all orders of concrete and stone in an order book complete with a unique order number. This information is sent to head office and checked against invoices received from the supplier. All material invoices are also kept in the site manager’s office in case of any discrepancies between site and supplier. This is a form of control put in place by farrans to ensure all materials that are delivered to site are received and paid for.

Materials being removed from sight are also controlled and have to be signed off. This is done for a similar reason to materials signing, to ensure the company only pay for the actual removal of site materials. For example when soil is excavated it must be removed from sites.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Farrans should ensure materials arrive on-site but not too early. Material and waste is not a massive issue on this particular project, the main material ordering is reinforced steel and concrete normally which are normally ordered to demand.

6.0 Management and Maintenance of Plant and Equipment

Plant and equipment as well as the other physical resources represent a large area of expense on a construction project. It is also essential to schedule plant to ensure delay does not occur due to a piece of equipment not being on-site.

Scheduling of plant is needed for items of plant not held on site. Similar to materials scheduling the main contractor must make a plant schedule dating periods of when other specialist plant may be required.

Plant scheduling is arguably not as critical as materials scheduling due to lack of demand in hire companies caused by the recession. McCaffer and Harris (2006) estimated in 2006 that between 50 – 60% of plant used on projects was hired. Usually hire companies can deliver plant at short notice meaning delays are not often incurred due to lack of scheduling.

Under the CDM regulations clients as well as contractors are accountable for the impact they have on health and safety. Therefore it is imperative that as project managers we try and control factors which affect health and safety on site as well as to the surrounding area. Most contractors are aware of the impacts plant and machinery has on the environment as well as the accident risk they pose.

“A contractor that owns plant must be prepared to provide maintenance and servicing of the equipment” (Harris and McCaffer 2006, p145). Many firms try to avoid these costs by providing minimum maintenance which results in unexpected breakdown and delays. It is good practice for the main contractor to implement a system of planned preventative maintenance.

The main contractor should ensure they keep the health and safety file updated with maintenance documentation for all items of plant on site. Also included must be the next required date for inspection and how frequently this must be carried out. It is the contractor’s duty to ensure all plant is continually inspected and maintained, it is also their responsibility to check that hired items of plant are in good working condition and regularly inspected and maintained to a good working order.

The health and safety executive (HSE) require that all operators of plant must hold the relevant license to operate it. Evidence of this certification and any relating insurance documents must be kept in the health and safety file for inspection at any time.

Noise generated from plant and machinery can often be unavoidable, but measures can be taken to restrict or reduce the disturbance. In order to ensure minimal disruption the main contractor should:

Maintain all plant

Uses noise barriers where appropriate

Plans deliveries as to avoid early morning disturbance

Uses alternative less noisy plant where available

Scheduling of plant is needed for items of plant not held on site. Similar to materials scheduling we will require the main contractor to make a plant schedule dating periods of when other specialist plant may be required

6.1 Farrans Management and Maintenance of Plant and Equipment

Farrans use the following procedures to ensure adequate maintenance of plant and equipment and also to ensure no delays as a result of bad plant scheduling.

6.1.1 Planning and Programming

Site planning is needed to identify necessary items of plant required throughout the construction phase. It is the responsibility of the planning team to know what piece of equipment is needed as wee as the period of time it is needed for. The ASTA software used by Farrans can produce Gantt charts to illustrate each item of plant, length of time it is needed and for what dates.

At each monthly meeting, mentioned in earlier sections, the coming month’s plant requirements are ev


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