Like it or not the condition of your job site is a direct reflection of your competency as a construction manager. Every CM is judged immediately on the condition of their site. If you are not judging CM’s by the condition of their job site now, you will. Every CM I know with any experience will form an opinion of the job site manager immediately when they drive on to the site. If we as construction managers are doing it you can bet that our customers are doing it as well. When clients show up and look around and see trash, dirt and building materials spread all over the place, their first impression is going to be that whoever is in charge is not doing a very good job. This could mean the loss of a customer, or worse, a client that feels they need to “help” you run the job. Either way it is a lose lose situation. I know lots of CMs that deliver a great product at the end of the job but leave a wake of trash and costly construction repairs behind them. Construction repairs that could have been avoided if the project was being properly managed. The problem of course, is that the CM is not paying attention to what the trade partners are doing. Just knowing that your trades are showing up is not enough, you also need to monitor them while they are on site. The result of not monitoring your trade partners is you spend too much money cleaning up their trash and paying to repair damage caused by “unknown persons”. Even worse than the money that is wasted is the unsafe working conditions that are often caused by un-managed job sites. Piles of trash and unorganized building materials can lead to accidents. Safety, trash and sediment and erosion control are the three major areas of concern when it comes to job site management.
The first and most important aspect of job site management is safety. Safety is not just your job as a CM it is your number 1priority. Prioritizing a safe job site means you are prioritizing the men and women that work on your project. The very least we can do as managers is to make sure everyone working on our project gets to go home to their loved ones every day. Construction sites are inherently dangerous places to work. Therefore we have our friends at OSHA pay us a visit from time to time. OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Their mission is to keep workers safe, you can and should spend some time on their web site https://www.osha.gov/ and if you haven’t already you need to ask your employer about attending one of the OSHA safety classes. As you walk your job site multiple times per day you need to keep a close watch for potential hazards. This can come in the form of missing safety rails, faulty or misuse of personal protective equipment (PPE), open trenches, and electric shock from faulty extension cords. The list of potential hazards could continue for page after page, the bottom line is that you must educate yourself on OSHA’s safety regulations and have a good understanding of what constitutes potential hazards and use common sense when evaluating what your trade partners are doing.
Despite your best efforts, accidents will happen, when they do you need to be prepared. You are always required by law to have a first aid kit and fire extinguisher on site. I can tell you from personal experience that you will use both multiple times during your career. Along with your first aid kit you should also take a course in basic first aid including CPR. The workers on your site look to you for leadership, this is especially true during emergencies. You must be prepared for anything.
If an accident occurs on your site, you may be required to report it to OSHA, learn their guidelines for what needs to be reported. You need to think about OSHA as a resource and a partner, they are not out to get you, they want you and your workers to go home safely everyday just like you. Follow this link to see the complete OSHA construction standards 29 CFR #1926 regulations. Save this link: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926 Making sure your workers and clients make it home safely to their loved ones is the number 1 priority. I often ask overly worked up construction managers that are stressing about schedules “who will die if you miss your deadline?”, the answer is no one. However, pushing trade partners to build at a dangerous speed without safety standards being met will eventually kill someone. I have seen it first hand and do not ever want to experience a loss of life on the job again. Too often we sacrifice safety for speed and the result is a death or serious injury on the job site. It is important that you as the leader set the example for everyone else. If you are wearing your hard hat than it is perfectly reasonable for everyone else to as well.
Lastly, most companies have a policy in place for when an OSHA inspector shows up on your job site. Know your company’s policy and follow it, most procedures involve a few simple steps, First, ask to see the inspector’s credentials. This is not rude or antagonistic, you need to know who they are and what agency they represent. Next, let your supervisor know immediately. You do not want to surprise your boss with a $50,000 fine or some other penalty, I guarantee it won’t go your way. Finally, document and photograph everything the inspector documents and photographs. This way you will both have all the details of the inspection. Remember to be honest with the inspectors but do not provide more information than required.
Sediment and Erosion Control
Sediment and erosion control is really easy. Make sure the dirt on your job site stays where it is supposed to be. One of the primaries focuses of the EPA or Environmental Protection Agency, is to make sure we, as land disturbers are keeping the dirt out of the streets and away from our waterways. The best way to keep the EPA happy is to keep the dirt where it belongs. Of course, this starts with education. Most jurisdictions offer a certification called “Responsible Land Disturber card” or “Green Card”. Basically, this is proof that you have taken a class on how to properly keep dirt and other pollutants where they are supposed to be. Multiple times during my career I have heard construction managers say, “it’s only dirt who cares”. The problem is that when silt or soil run off from our construction projects reaches our waterways the water quality deteriorates very quickly. This can be devastating to the wild life and greatly impact the quality of drinking water and wetland areas.
The size of your project and the acreage of the land you disturb will depend on the type of regulations the EPA will hold you accountable for. Basically, when you are planning your project you will need to file a NOI or Notice of Intent with the EPA. This type of filing can be with local and federal organizations depending on the size and scope of your project. This lets the locals know exactly how much land is going to be disturbed and sets parameters for your SWPPP or Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. This will determine what actions and what type of preventative measures you are legally responsible for during the completion of your project. As part of your general site grading permit you will have a section for stormwater management which will outline the sediment and erosion controls you will be responsible to put in place and maintain for the life of your project. These controls can be as simple as surrounding your project with silt fence or as elaborate as building permanent sediment ponds to prevent rain water runoff. Your SWPPP is not limited to soil runoff, all pollutants are included. Also, in your site management plan will be preventative measures you must take to contain common job site pollutants such as concrete washout, fueling stations for diesel tractors and generators and other pollutants. Whatever the local policy is you had better do it, the penalties can be astronomically expensive and can lead to your project being a total loss, not to mention jail time for whoever controls the job site.
Now let’s talk about trash. There are few things that will bring judgement down on a construction manager quicker than a trashy job site. Trash on a job site immediately lets everyone know that there is no serious management or control over the trade partners. As a construction manager you are not bringing trash on to the jobsite, your trades are. We provide the means to dispose of the trash and debris that gets generated, but it is the trade partners that are ultimately responsible for disposing of their trash. Most contracts between a builder and their trade partners specifically call out that the trade partner is to broom sweep and organize their material at the end of every single day. That simple statement gives the construction manager the authority to hold their contractors responsible for cleaning up after themselves. Every trade partner cleans up every day with no exceptions. By holding your trades accountable you won’t fall into the trash trap. The trash trap is where you have trash from multiple trades mixed up together making it more difficult to determine whose trash it is. The best way to hold your trades accountable is to be there at the end of the day and make sure they clean up before they leave. However, this is not always possible, so we must set the expectations at the beginning of the project. The key to setting expectations is consistency, hold a pre-construction meeting with your trades and let them know prior to starting work what is expected. That meeting will serve as your first and only warning to the trades. A simple action you can take If a trade partner leaves trash on your sight is to take a photo of the trash and immediately send the photo to the highest-ranking person in the offending trade partners company. Along with the photo you should attach a bill for whatever amount it costs your company to clean up after the trade partner.
You will only have to do this once or twice before they understand they cannot leave trash on your job site.
When I, and every other construction manager with more than a day’s experience sees a dirty, trashy job, we immediately assume the manager is not doing their job, and rightfully so. There are several reasons for holding the trades responsible for cleaning up after themselves. First, clean jobs make for more productive jobs, that is a fact. No one likes working in garbage. Second, excessive trash on job sites can hide dangerous site conditions. Remember, safety is our first job, we can’t prevent hazards if we can’t see them. And lastly, whether you like it or not all construction managers are in marketing. When clients or potential trade partners see a trashy, unkempt job site they are less likely to want to do business with your company.
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