On bigger construction sites, you’ll find a wide array of skilled trades, labourers, technical specialists and often several subcontracted firms which are responsible for various aspects of the build. However, you’ll nearly always also find a general foreman (although this might well be a woman). General foreman jobs can be challenging but are always involving and interesting.
So what does the foreman do, and what skills do you need to get these jobs?
First and foremost, general foreman jobs have a health and safety responsibility to ensure that the site operates safely. This will include ensuring that no workers are putting others at risk and that every trade is using safe working practices. This might include, for example, ensuring that hot work permits have been obtained when required.
In addition, the foreman needs to be familiar with the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM 2015). There may be a CDM Co-ordinator on site, but even if there is, the foreman has to understand the requirements of the law when it comes to running a construction site.
The foreman is in the best position to give an overall progress report to the site lead manager, architect and others. They will know if one area of work is holding up progress elsewhere and which tasks are dependent on other tasks being completed. They’ll be able to give a good idea of which trades or skills are performing well, and whether more resources are needed in order to keep to schedule.
Dealing with Subcontractors
A large part of the foreman’s work will involve dealing with subcontractors. It’s usual for a large construction project to involve many different “subs” rather than a large number of contract labourers. This is because it’s much simpler for the main contractor to contract work to other companies. That’s particularly the case where the work involves specialist skills such as metalwork construction, pouring foundations or finishing trades.
The general foreman will be aware of the appropriate quality requirements and can hold subcontractors to account if they don’t produce work of adequate quality. Similarly, when it comes to snagging, the foreman will usually accompany the client around the finished project and then manage the list of work with the subcontractors involved.
Dealing with Consultants
There will always be a number of consultants working on a project. These will probably include a cost engineer, who may also carry out the quantity surveyor role (QS). The foreman has to act as the conduit for information and enquiries passing backwards and forwards between the subs and the consultants.
General foreman jobs are ideal for people who already have experience in a trade or in a management role in some aspect of construction. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has lots of information on relevant qualifications and training.