Dufferin Construction Company
Tell us a bit about yourself ?
I am working on the Highway 400 and Line 5 bridge construction project up in Bradford Ontario. I am a Construction Coordinator and it involves working with the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, other Construction Coordinators (CCs), and ultimately the Foremen in charge of the various crews on site. Meeting with the team regularly, we plan out how to complete various tasks ahead of us, how long they will take etc, and make sure that we are using each crew to our best advantage (ie. sewer crews, grading crews, etc). As the work is taking place, the CCs track the progress based on the bids to see if we are on track with what was allocated to each task. Additionally the CCs are typically the ones doing takeoffs for granulars, asphalt, concrete, etc and as the work is being completed, responsible for ensuring the proper quantity
Describe a typical day at work
In the summer I would come to work for 6 am. The crews would usually start around 6:30 am, so you would want to come in a bit earlier to ensure that everything is on track. For example, if lane closures are required, you would need to prepare traffic control plans, make sure that the traffic control people (usually a subcontractor) are ready to close on time, and everyone knows what is going on. Based on the different tasks going on, I usually try to see a bit of everything going on and track the progress throughout the day (typically 3 times a day), which usually keeps you on site all day unless its raining… But if there is a “special operation” going on like asphalt, where I would have to be looking at: the traffic control, asphalt grinding / trucking away, tackcoat, asphalt quantities placed, quantity remaining, (comparing to the theoretical quantity to adjust with any factors), the return trip time for asphalt live bottoms, when to sign out trucks, the quantity for the plant to batch, the timing the highway lanes need to be open, line marking etc, THEN in that case, it is more of a stressful situation and you usually want to spend all your time there to ensure you are making the correct decisions 😉 The last thing you want is an unfinished road, that you have to open to live traffic, whereas you have to decide what is most costs effective (paying OT for the crews as well as the MTO fines for late opening OR paying for remobilizing of the crew the next day/night for a small portion of work to be completed and being forced to pay a min. amount of hours for the crew)
That being said I am not obligated to stay any longer than a 10 hr day, but typically stay 12 (all dependent on daily operations), and work 5/6 days a week. Night shifts usually only happen whenever a lane closure of the highway is required, and really aren’t that bad as long as you get to keep a steady routine.
BUT in winter time, things are going to slow down with limited daylight and if you are a ski bum/winter loving person, it might be the ideal job for you because you will be able to take off time in the winter 🙂
What courses best prepared you for your job?
I really don’t think any courses really prepped me for this job. I am on my feet almost all day, looking at and tracking 10+ operations each day and it does get overwhelming sometimes. Time Management is key, but it is also very important to be level headed… For example, I’ve had foremen of subcontractors that I’ve never even met, come up to me swearing at me etc, and although the first impressions were not ideal, they were some of the funniest/enjoyable/knowledgeable people to work with.
Describe the coolest project you got to work on
I have only been working on highway bridge construction projects, but for example with the one I am closely working on, there is earth work, water course work (re-routing a river for ~1 km), road construction (subgrade, granulars, asphalt), watermain / chambers, forcemain, storm-sewers / Catchbasins / ditch inlets, deep foundations (pile driving), concrete pours (footings, piers, pier cap, abutments, retaining walls, wingwalls, bridge deck etc). I am probably missing a lot on this list, but as you can see it is never a dull moment on the job site 😉
Is there anything you wish you knew about the job / industry before starting?
Before I took on the job, I spoke to various people within the engineering industry, construction industry, and at the end of the day, the most important take home message was to learn as much as you can, and make sure that you try as many paths as you can to figure out what you are passionate about. I was lucky to have some experience with an engineering firm for the previous 2 summers, and I decided to switch things up and look at the construction side.
Any tips / advice / anything you would like to share with current students?
If you decide to have an on-site engineering related job such as a coordinator/inspector etc, make sure you are making an effort to talk to the workers on site. Not only will you learn the most from the ground up, but they will gain trust in you and involve you in the operations. It really is one thing to see something in the contract documents, OPSDs (Standard Dwgs), or OPSSs (Standard Specifications), and then seeing it be done in real life. An engineering degree may prove you are good at crunching numbers and using your calculator, but its the people without the degrees that have the most on-site knowledge and in fact will always know more than you in different ways. I’ve met operators as old as 74, and you really have to appreciate how much they have been through and how much you can learn from them. You ultimately don’t want to be known as the sneaky coordinator running around operation to operation and trying to get people in trouble… Good relationships are key.