Internship At Mainland Civil Personal Development Essay

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This report will analyse my personal experiences that I have gained in my second internship together with my own reflections and thoughts. Due to my previous history of working in construction prior to my studies at UTS, I was exempted from Engineering Experience 1. I was employed by Mainland Civil who is based in Kogarah as a site engineer for my second internship. Prior to this, I undertook work involved in labouring for trades such as formwork, landscaping, demolition and excavation.

This report consists of an overview and brief description of my duties, responsibilities and typical work activities as well as the nature of the work carried out by Mainland Civil. Undertaking labouring work in construction gave me an appreciation for the amount of time tasks take to complete, the physical work required and the amount of planning both on and off site that was required for perfect outcomes. As I am aiming to provide an insight into the engineering professional skills I have gained, I will focus this report on my second internship.

The report will then focus on three career episodes as specified in the requirements of the report. These episodes will highlight my development as an engineer and my new skills set in particular with project management. Through these episodes, I have attempted to identify the units of engineering competence with respect to the IEAust Competency units.

An updated copy of my resume can be found as an attachment.

Summary of what I did and where I worked during my internship

The company that I work for is called Mainland Civil. They are a civil engineering contractor who specialise in city excavation and pavement jobs. They have completed work at Luna Park, Port Botany freight terminal, Sydney Freight Terminal Chullora, King St Wharf, Long Bay prison and the Port Kembla redevelopment terminal. The company very recently (March) turned 10 years old. The management of the company consists of ex-Walker employee's who started Mainland when Walkers was sold. It is a private company and they employee close to 50 personnel including labourers, operators, foremen and project management staff. They have an annual turnover of roughly $50m.

During my internship I spent a large proportion of my time on site. I can break up my duties into three main areas. Firstly, my duties on site as a site engineer which involved the day to day runnings of the site. Secondly, as part of the Project Management team I had responsibilities that included project costing, ordering, contractual documentation and other various forms of document control and processing. Thirdly, I was placed in charge of preparing an investigation and rectification of the cracking that was occurring in our pavement along service trenches all over the site.

2.1 Daily Site Operations

As soon as I began, a position opened up down at Port Kembla which required a full time site engineer. This project recently achieved practical completion at the time of this report. Mainland Civil were the successful tenderer for the construction of stage 1 (of 2) of a major component of the infrastructure works. This stage consisted primarily of the construction of over 70,500m2 of heavy duty pavement, 113,500m2 of truck duty pavement and 8,500m2 of car duty pavement including all associated hydraulic, electrical and communication services. This work began in early 2006 and was completed in late 2007. By meeting the project's tight programme requirements and consistently producing high quality finished work, Mainland Civil was able to negotiate the construction of the second stage including a further 153,000m2 of truck duty and car duty pavement. This work began in early 2008 and recently finished (March 2009). I was involved in the project from June 2008 to its completion. The project was worth a total of $40m for the two stages.

I carried out duties such as site safety walks, toolbox meetings, filing and printing correspondence from head office to the personnel on site and practical duties such as using the GPS to mark out points such as footing edges, pavement edges and fence line positions. I also carried out surveying work during construction of the pavement to check levels for the grader, backhoe and excavator operators. I was also in charge of all material ordering for the site. When a concrete pour was scheduled, I had to calculate and order the concrete for the pour. During pavement placement I had to estimate the amount of material that would be placed the following day by seeing what resources were available, then ordering with the supplier a rough estimated quantity in tonnes. I also had to calculate and mark out the stormwater lines, their RL's, the delivery of all pits and pipes and liaise with the crane company to lift them once the truck arrived.

2.2 Project Management Operations

After the completion of the project, I then had to begin full-time work at head office with the rest of my project management team. I was assigned to the next job which is the Veolia Transfer terminal at Clyde on Parramatta Road. It is a similar pavement job on a smaller scale. I now carry out tasks involving the management of the project. Daily site diaries from site are sent to the office for costing by me so that an up to date dollar cost for the project can be easily identified by those that are more advanced in the team. These costs are broken up into different areas of construction such as Demolition, Pavement supply, pavement placing, variation costs, site accommodation costs etc. I am also undertaking work such as site ordering and resource management. I will issue purchase orders to our sub-contractors for various work and also to operators' such as Bogie operators and excavator businesses to work on site.

I have specific safety management responsibilities such as weekly visits to sites to carry out safety walks and identify any issues that may be present on site that could be hazardous to the safety of personnel on site. I liaise with the site Foreman if he has any requests of small tools/equipment/materials that are needed, and I ensure that these are delivered within 24 hours to site. I also ensure that any operators or sub-contractors on site are fully insured for both public liability and workers compensation. If necessary, our company will request information from our sub-contractors providing evidence that their employee's are being paid superannuation.

My project manager will also give me tasks that he feels are important to the project. Nearly all the time, this will mean producing a spreadsheet with estimated costs for a certain aspect of the project.

I have learnt a lot in terms of the hierarchy of a company during my short time here. I noticed that those towards the top are paid more, not for their knowledge, but for their ability to manage those below them and to designate tasks. They carry with them a large amount of responsibility but through there people skills they are able to remain relaxed and place their trust in those who aren't as experienced as they are. It is a very relaxed office environment where we enjoy working very hard and also being able to switch off and enjoy each others company through all the troubles and problems that may arise on site due to the systems we have in place.

2.3 Engineering Investigation into the Cracking of Asphalt at Port Kembla

Due to my time spent on the actual site at Port Kembla, my project manager entrusted me to carry out an investigation of the crack with his guidance. I gained first hand knowledge of the systems and processes taken to identify the cause of a problem, the politics involved in pointing the finger at the party responsible (a supplier of the product we used), setting up testing procedures, analysing results, discussing possible rectification options with various companies and experts and finally, the legal process involved in placing the blame on a third party. This was probably where I actually undertook engineering work through the investigation as opposed to project management work.

Under the supervision of my project manager, I learnt how to set out the initial investigation and we have documented every step of the way up to this current day. We took core hole samples, test dug holes, profiled the layer of asphalt to reveal the extent of the cracks in the base and then began carrying out daily surveying of the crack to measure the cracks rate of growth.

It was immediately apparent to us that the problem was in the backfill material used in the trenches. Cracking and uplifting was apparent only in these areas. We were engaged in a legal dispute with the supplier of the material who is denying they did not follow the correct process in storage and curing of the material.

Career Episode #1

Description of Episode

Competency Element

Altering the process of breaks present in the asphalt.Mention talking about BORAL and samiseal.

Issue: when the asphalt was positioned and completed, cracks and breakages started to appear. This came to our attention a little while later. The cracks were appearing at the length of the service trench runs, uplifting the surface.

Analysis of the issue:Since the foreman was no longer working with us due to his retirement plan which came after the completion of the last asphalt operation we worked on, upon finishing point of the task it was permitted for us to claim practical completion. I was given the task of analysing the breakages and cracking of the asphalt by our project manager. This was a positive task for me as I knew that I was most knowledgeable between the other workers of the daily events on site. I took this very seriously and as an opportunity to show my project manager that I am capable achieving the best possible outcomes, displaying managerial skills and showing documentation control.I assigned tasks for the workers. Firstly to the concrete cutter who will collect samples of the fixation, another worker to carry out the operation of excavating three test holes down to the services. In completion of the digging of holes, I wrote a report on Safe Work Methods for workers to be aware of the detail. The task I assigned to myself, with the help on my project manager

With my project manager, we engaged the services of a pavement expert (DURKIN) who carried out an extensive investigation into the chemical and mechanical side of the Steel Furance Slag used as backfill material on site. His results could not be taken as concrete evidence that the slag was the problem. As time had passed between the initial discovery and this point, our company withheld all monies owing to the supplier in case we could not recover the cost of the rectification and as such, we were then sent letters from their lawyers. I will not delve into the lawsuit side of the problem and will focus on the solution.

Planning the Solution:At the time of my employment, there were past times that we had to undertake maintenance on cracks on other sites.

A rubber bitumen would be melted onto the crack to form a waterproof seal (which was basically a band-aid type solution). I brought up this as a possible solution to the independent investigator (DURKIN) who felt it could be used as PART of the solution. We had to work out whether the crack was still expanding or whether the reactions had all taken place. My project manager sent me to site to devise a testing methodology. I decided that daily readings of the crack at the same locations would be appropriate as the change in height could be calculated once all the results were in, and a graph showing whether the rate of expansion had stopped or was slowing would show us our current situation. We received results that the expansion had not stopped, but was slowing down. At the time of writing this, we have not moved forward to rectifying the crack, but I have proposed solutions to my project manager after speaking with our expert investigator and also BORAL who are dealing with a similar problem further south and are developing a grout mix to place inside the cracks. These are the two options that we will be using to propose to the client and I had a direct involvement in them.

PC1.4 Develops Engineering Solutions

PC1.4a Identifies and proposes options to achieve engineering solutions

PC1.4c Plans and manages the development of solutions

PC1.4d Produces means of testing, measuring and evaluating solutions

PC2.2Prepares concept proposal and seeks advice on latest technology

PC2.5Prepares and maintains documentation during the design process

Summary of Units Claimed via Career Episode 1:

PC1.4 Develops Engineering Solutions

PC1.4a Identifies and proposes options to achieve engineering solutions

PC1.4c Plans and manages the development of solutions

PC1.4d Produces means of testing, measuring and evaluating solutions

PC2.2 Prepares concept proposal and seeks advice on latest technology

PC2.5 Prepares and maintains documentation during the design process

Career Episode #2

Description of Episode

Competency Element

I was new in the position on site at Port Kembla and had no previous civil experience. I was getting by with personnel on site showing understanding of my lack of knowledge. A time came when one of the sub-contractors required an answer to a problem that a person in my position would normally be able to provide the answer to. It was whether our pavement construction was going to be delayed due to the open trenches that our sub-contractor hadn't completed. I was unsure of the answer and it caused him to tell me to "get with the program, don't you know whats going on here?" I was honestly offended because I felt stupid but it forced me to get out and to focus and pay attention and learn as much as possible so that I would never be in such a position where someone could question my knowledge of the project.


Work was a breeze for me with not many responsibilities on my behalf. This was the attitude I had at first, however, I noticed that if I kept passing days as easily as I was, my job was not going to get any easier but in actual fact a lot harder. I had fallen behind with practical work on site and had little awareness towards the work that was being done. The foreman had expectations from me to pass on information to our sub-contractors. It became a concern because I was unaware of what was taking place therefore I couldn't really convey information to the sub-contractors on site.

Analysis of the issue: I was off-putting my awareness and understanding of things hence it affecting my contributions to team work.

Planning the Solution: Something had to be done about my behaviour. I was acting irresponsibly and had to wake up to myself. It wasn't hard for me to realise that if you don't plan and propose you will most definitely fall back. I pledged that from this point forward I will learn more effectively and efficiently and never leave a question asked to me by workers, unanswered. It was a tough assignment but has helped me come a long way.

Following the changes I made, a little time was needed in order for the sub-contractor to put his trust in me. However when he finally did, it was most rewarding to me. I feel comfortable to now approach him on and off site, ask him work related questions and vice versa. This was evidence to me that I had made a big improvement in my position within this business. It is very important to communicate with employees and sub-contractors on site regarding the schemes and having the ability to exchange information with one another as this contributes to the progression of the task. This is one of the imperative aspects that hold great significance in my profession.

PC3.1 Manages self

PC3.2 Works effectively in the team

PE1A.2Develops client relationships

Summary of Units Claimed via Career Episode 2:

PC3.1 Manages self

PC3.2 Works effectively in the team

PE1A.2 Develops client relationships

Career Episode #3

Fitting in Stormwater pits &pipes on site as drawings had been erroneous. The Foreman was ill and therefore absent for the time constructions were taking place.

Issue:A section of stormwater was now ready for installation and the foreman on site became sick the week before and was not expected to return to work this week. I was in charge on site and insisted to my Project Engineer back at head office that I would be capable of installing the system correctly. He would visit and liaise with the sub-foreman on site to ensure things were running smooth.

During our setting out on site previously, the foreman and I noticed that this current stretch of stormwater would not work according to the drawings. If it were to be installed as per the levels given, then the pit would have been +400mm above surface level to accommodate the stormwater run. Therefore we had to work off the existing levels and work out the run and gradient ourselves and also the inverts and pit depths. I was 75km from head office and could not wait for the project engineer to come down to double check my math, so I double checked and triple checked my maths were correct. It is funny how you doubt yourself over relatively simple math when the consequences can cause large disruption and cost actual money to the company and you need to continually double check your working out to show confidence in your work.

Analysis of the issue:The stormwater line would not work as per the current construction drawings (which was nothing new, over the 3 year duration of the project, our client developed a reputation for poor design on site). If we were to install it as per the plan, then the stormwater pit would be 400mm above surface level.

Planning the Solution: We had to work around the existing pits and inverts. The solution would need to ensure the pipe was below the minimum cover level (600mm below top of asphalt) and that the stormwater pipe would not enter the pit through the lid. It also needed to have a minimum grade of 1%.

Implementation:In school I always thought "why do I need to know about trigonometry?" After looking over my works the simplest level of math was needed (trigonometry) as I looked over my workings numerous amounts of time.

Outcome: The stormwater line was successful in that it fulfilled all the original criteria set by the client even though the client themselves could not design to their own requirements. My project engineer was impressed with my persistence that I could solve the problem without his help and thereby saving his time.

On reflecting back, I have learnt that it is obvious that there is a limit to how good engineering design can be without practical experience and extensive knowledge. Our client could not design stormwater due to a lack of experience and lacked the ability to visualise a problem and to therefore propose a solution. I have learnt that good engineers therefore, are worth the salaries they are paid by companies and I now show a certain amount of respect to the engineers who take pride in their work and are micromanagers in the way they operate. Poor engineering design costs money in terms of contractors not being able to work and therefore costing them money in hiring of plant, site sheds, labour costs and supervision costs. It can also delay other works and contractors on site.