A construction site is a dynamic complex changing environment. Every day or even hour, the very nature of the activities on a building and construction site change. This may range from sub-trades coming and going which means staffing increases or decreases, visitors attending site, material being delivered or relocated, to movements in plant and equipment such as cranes on site, elevated working platforms, forklifts etc.
In addition to this, in most cases a construction site has constraints on space, what this means is, for economic viability, most buildings are designed to take up as much of the land they are built on as possible. This leaves little of no room for storage, crane movements, parking, access or even areas to manage waste.
This environment presents many challenges to a Project Manager, Construction Manager or Site Manager. As the project ramps up and the activities increase, the working environment becomes more constrained and dangerous, and if not properly managed can lead to worker frustration and arguments, low productivity, errors and mistakes or low quality work, breaches in safety and in some of the worse cases worker injury or bankruptcy.
The very first step in managing this process and ensuring that the project runs smoothly is in the early planning. What this means is that before any work commences on site, there must be a clear and concise plan developed on firstly, what are the critical stages of the project, then what are the most likely thing to go wrong (risk), to what will be the best way to manage the processes during these stages. Some of the most critical stages may be as follows:
- At what stage, date or location is the most activity (workers) expected on site
- What are the largest or heaviest elements of the project
- What are the most expensive items used in the construction
- What dates or stages is the largest plant and equipment expected on site
- When are the biggest days on site, (largest concrete pours, steel erection etc.)
- What are the most dangerous high risk construction processes (scaffolding, crane work etc.)
In addition to some of the above critical activities, there are many other critical elements to consider that must be considered before formulating this plan such as;
- How will waste be managed on site
- How will management responsibility be allocated
- What is the best way to transport, shift and locate materials within the site
- What are the security concerns with theft, damage, misplacement
The above notes are just a guide, and highlight the complex nature of activities all levels of management must consider prior to any work commencing on site. Formulating a plan of action to manage these processes cannot be done in isolation. It is critical that all levels of management are involved in its development.
The best way to initiate this plan is to involve all the main representatives, such as site managers, project managers, construction managers, sub-trade representatives and safety officers. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge within each of these disciplines that can brainstorm and identify all the issues and develop a list of critical issues that must be considered during the entire construction process.
Once this list is developed, it is then possible to formulate a plan or program to address these issues. Some of the main actions that are developed from these plans are as follows:
- Location and design of scaffold
- Crane location
- Storage areas
- Movement paths for plant, equipment and materials
- Access for sub trades, workers and truck deliveries
- Waste management
- Construction zones
- Visitor and neighbour management
- Access to services (power, water, amenities etc.)
- Management of high risk activities
It is clear from the information above that a building and construction site cannot run itself, and requires a diligent and energetic team to ensure that the problems and pitfalls are avoided. Plans and programmes on a building site will change even on a daily basis with the dynamic nature of the activities, however if the critical elements can be identified early in the process, it will ensure that any risks arising from every day activities can be managed.