Clerks of works, also known as site inspectors, site supervisors or site managers, monitor the work of companies that carry out construction contracts for their employer or client. Examples of such contracts include erecting buildings, constructing roads, installing pipelines and maintaining estates.
Their main responsibility is to make sure that work is carried out to the client's standards, specification and schedule. In most cases, the specifications are prepared by architects or engineers employed by the client. Clerks of works make sure that the correct materials and procedures are used and that the client is given quality work and value for money.
Clerks of works are either on site all the time or make regular visits. They need to be vigilant in their inspections of a large range of technical aspects of the work. This involves:
Clerks of works are not only inspectors but also superintendents. This means that they can advise the contractor about certain aspects of the work, particularly if something has gone wrong. They can also agree to minor changes. They cannot, though, give advice that could be interpreted as an instruction, particularly if this would lead to additional expense.
They have to keep detailed records of various aspects of the work, which they put together in regular reports for the architect or planner and the client. Records include details of:
- Progress and any delays
- The number and type of workers employed
- Weather conditions
- Visitors to the site
- Drawings received
- Details of any significant events
Clerks of works liaise closely with the contractor's staff. They must, however, maintain their independence, as they are responsible for working in the best interests of their employer or client.
If the work involves maintenance, alterations or additions to buildings by directly employed workers, clerks of works may be responsible for supervising them.
Some clerks of works specialise in particular areas such as building, civil engineering or mechanical and electrical installations.
Clerks of works normally work 35 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Weekend and evening work is common, particularly when deadlines for completion of construction are imminent. Part-time work and flexible hours are possible.
They are based in site offices, normally in temporary structures, but spend most of their time outdoors in all weather conditions. Inspection work usually involves climbing ladders and scaffolding. For certain projects, such as tunnel construction, it can involve going underground.
Clerks of works often have to spend considerable time travelling to building sites and may be away from home for short periods of time.
Starting salaries are around £25,000 a year. A Senior Clerk of Works could well earn £60,000 plus.
There are around 5,000 clerks of works throughout the UK. Employers include:
- Architectural practices
- Consultancy firms
- Government departments
- Health authorities
- Large industrial and retail companies
- Local authorities
Self-employment is common.
The number of clerks of works has been stable but there is currently a shortage. Vacancies are advertised in Site Recorder published by the Institute of Clerks of Works (ICW), local and national newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and, increasingly, on the internet.
There are no set qualifications needed for entry to this work, but it is essential to have relevant experience. Clerks of works usually enter the profession after some years' experience at craft or technician level in construction or civil engineering. For this reason, it is not a profession that is open to school leavers.
Entrants may work towards NVQ's/SVQ's in Site Inspection at Levels 3 and 4. They may also work towards different levels of membership of the ICW - Student, Licentiate and Member. This is not essential, but is increasingly required by employers.
Student membership is open to those studying one of the following:
NVQ/SVQ Site Inspection Level 3 or similar
A relevant BTEC/SQA national award.
A relevant City & Guilds certificate or advanced certificate.
A qualification at this level with an associated professional institute recognised for exempting qualifications.
Licentiate membership is open to those who have successfully completed one of the above.
Member status is open to those who have achieved one of the following:
NVQ/SVQ Site Inspection Level 4 or similar
A relevant BTEC/SQA higher national award.
A relevant first or higher degree.
Corporate membership by examination of one of the associated professional institutes recognised for exempting qualifications.
Entry to each level requires not only a relevant qualification but also a detailed report of the candidate's professional history, a professional practice interview and a materials identification test.
All clerks of works are expected to engage in Continuing Professional Development. This is to make sure that they keep abreast of developments in areas such as new materials, practices, law and regulations, and health and safety issues.
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
A clerk of works should:
Experienced clerks of works may progress to site management or other management roles in the construction industry.
They may become self-employed. It can be possible to work abroad, particularly in Europe and developing countries.
The Institute of Clerks of Works (ICW), Equinox,
28 Commerce Road, Lynch Wood, Peterborough PE2 6LR
Tel: 01733 405160
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.