Build Yourself a Career in Construction

Careers Advice
16 July 2019 | Careers Advice | Guest Author

Construction has long been a major sector of the UK’s economy. According to the Office for National Office of Statistics, construction contributed 6.1% of the country’s GDP in 2017. That may not sound high, but this is a figure for construction alone, whereas other sectors identified have much wider parameters, such as production which encompasses thousands of different types of businesses. This translates to a lot of jobs.

According to Statista, approximately 2.96 million people within the UK are employed, either directly or indirectly, within the construction industry (2016). This employment encompasses a huge range of jobs from white collar jobs (architect, surveyor, designer) to every kind of trade (bricklayer, electrician, plasterer, roofer, painter, plumber) to unskilled workers such as labourers and mates. Among these, everyone has their specific purpose. There are other jobs which have more of a general or over-riding role and which are extremely important to the success and efficiency of a construction site and if you want to build a career in construction, offering interest and scope for job satisfaction as well as good salary prospects.

What is a Construction Site Manager?

Construction can mean anything from building a wall around a garden or doing a loft extension to the erection of a high-rise block of flats or offices. For smaller jobs, those that are carried out by a single firm, the work will be directed by the company owner or an appointed foreman. For larger construction projects, which can include everything from building new houses to huge national projects such as the Channel Tunnel or London Crossrail (one of the largest ever construction projects in the UK), there will be a site manager – although, in such massive projects there might be a number of site managers reporting into a project director.

A site manager has a wide range of duties to ensure the site keeps running and the construction deadline is met. These include:

  • Monitor progress of the overall project
  • Oversee delivery, allocation, and storage of materials
  • Liaise with architects, engineers, surveyors, and planners
  • Direct and engage trades’ foremen
  • Problem solving
  • Ensure compliance with building regulations and legal requirements
  • Security of the site.

One of the most important aspects of the site manager role is safety. Construction is a high-risk industry. The statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive for 2017 showed there were 30 fatalities in construction, 64,000 non-fatal accidents, and 80,00 workers suffered from work-related ill health. It is the duty of a site manager to be aware of all the risks and to undertake action to prevent accidents to ensure the health and safety of the workers on the site. It is usual for a site manager to receive advice and direction on these matters from a professional health and safety officer. According to Act Associates however, the site manager should have extensive health and safety knowledge and attend specialist site management courses, rather than just being reliant on the site’s health and safety officer. Together, these roles should be able to reduce the risk of workers coming to harm on the site as well as reducing the risks of injury to the public or passers-by. 

What is a Construction Site Health and Safety Officer?

This is one of the most important roles in the construction industry, particularly on large projects. The bigger the project, the greater risk of injury and the greater the risk for breach of health and safety regulations. The list of potential risks in construction is extensive.

While the health and safety advisor cannot prevent every accident, they can take measures to mitigate the risks of the accident occurring. This includes:

  • Establishing the safety policies and ensuring they are implemented and adhered to
  • Ensuring that all workers on site are aware of and follow the safety regulations
  • Ensuring all materials are stored correctly
  • Keeping up to date with any changes in regulations and health and safety legislation

The health and safety advisor on a construction site cannot be responsible for ensuring that workers are sufficiently trained and skilled in the performance of their duties and their use of equipment. There are so many employees involved and they may work for different firms working on different areas of the project. This is down to the firm employing these contractors and sub-contractors. The construction safety officer however, can make relevant inspections and inquiries as well as enforce the overall site policies.

Unlike the site manager job which can be achieved through a variety of routes (a site manager might have started their career as a labourer and worked up or have experience as a quantity surveyor who has branched out), the construction safety officer will have an accredited professional qualification.

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