Damn Site Instructions


Why on earth do site foreman/managers issue site instructions to subcontractors to carry out works which are contained within the original subcontract scope. It happens all the time and the larger the project the more it occurs. If they understood what is contained within the subcontract the amount of site instructions would decrease and of course the resultant trade cost over runs would be less.

There may be mechanisms for approval of site instructions by the project and commercial manager, but often the site foreman has issued a verbal instruction to the subcontractor and the argument about the validity of the instruction takes place after the works are complete. A case of trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Sometimes it falls to an inexperienced site based contract administrator to approve site instruction based variations in the subcontractor’s monthly progress claim. If all the boxes are ticked ie the site instruction is signed and issued, the subcontractor has submitted a full cost break up, then the dollars are approved and the subcontractor paid.

If after the payment some hawk eye spots that the paid for works were in fact part of the subcontractor’s original scope, then we begin the process of clawing the money back. We tell the subcontractors that variations are paid “on account” and that payment for a variation does not mean it has been approved. We then go into battle with a subcontractor who we need to finish his trade package. The smart ones may go legal and we get into arguments about Estoppel, deceptive and misleading conduct etc etc.

The worst case is when site instructions are issued after the work has been carried out. There is simply no excuse for this and in my view this is the time for badges and guns to be handed in and the first available window seat is to be organised.

The way to stop money going down the drain is to have a strangle hold in the issuing of site instructions and the only person who can issue them is that rare site based individual – someone who really does know what they are building.


image courtesy of dreamtime.com

Published by

Gerry Keating

Construction Professional

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