By Jemma Quin, Temporary works Advisor at Kier & Director of the TWf.
Scotland, United Kingdom.
Hi, I’m Jemma. I’m a Chartered Civil Engineer with over 15 years of experience in the Construction Industry on projects in the water, rail, airports, tunnelling, and buildings sectors. I am a Temporary Works Advisor at Kier where I go round construction sites in Scotland, Northeast England and Northern Ireland to help raise the capability of my colleagues by training them on Temporary Works. I am also a director of the Temporary Works forum (TWf), a specialist knowledge society of the Institution of Civil Engineers whose aim is to make the industry safer by making people more aware of what ‘Temporary Works’ is.
So, what is Temporary Works?
Temporary Works is an “engineered solution” used to:
Help support or protect a structure during its construction or demolition such as propping of façade retention, (see photo 1 – which shows the internal support structure holding up part of Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow).
Support an item of plant or equipment such as crane platforms and welfare cabin foundations (see photo 2 - a 500 Ton Crawler Crane lifting a large structure onto the roof of the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow).
Support the side of an excavation/ trench such as trench boxes (see photo 3 - huge props supporting the sides of excavation in London).
Provide access such as scaffolding or work platforms (see photo 2 - green scaffolding around the building to providing access to the roof).
Temporary works can be removed or left in place after the completion of the permanent works and can also be how we sequence the permanent works installation or demolition.
Another way to look at it is everything is temporary works on a construction project. If you think about it, we have been carrying out temporary works since the dawn of time. The ancient civilizations used ropes and equipment to move large blocks of stone to form the pyramids. The Romans used formwork and falsework to create aqueducts and you sometimes use a friend to hold bits together when you are building flat pack furniture.
How did I get into Construction?
Physics was my favourite subject at school and when dad took me to see the Falkirk Wheel being built (a structure which connects two canals together in the Central Belt of Scotland), I realized I wanted a career where I could use applied physics and see the outcome of what I had created. So, I looked at newspapers (showing my age) to see what jobs were available and there were lots of civil engineering jobs compared to mechanical engineering or physics. I then chose to study civil engineering at university and luckily I got two summer placements in 2nd and 3rd year which led to sponsorship in my final year of university and a job when I graduated.
Civil Engineering: Example of a bridge
Why do I like Temporary Works?
I get to solve complex problems and find elegant solutions to things people never realize are a problem. Each one is often a work of art as you can see from the three photos I’ve shown above. Each temporary works item is like a mini project as you have to go through a whole design cycle which includes:
Identifying the temporary work problem that needs to be done
Creating a design brief to describe how we’ll solve that problem
Create the design solution
Assessing whether the design works
Building the designed temporary works item
Quality checking the built item to see whether the design has been followed
Loading it (a.k.a putting it into use)
Using it to carry out its work purpose
Unload it – put it out of service
Dismantling it (a.k.a putting it out of use)
Reviewing the work you have done from start to finish
Why is Temporary Works an important part of Design & Construction phases?
The short answer is - when we get it wrong people get hurt. There are also commercial and logistical issues which affect a project’s program and overall cost! The best thing to do is consider it as early as you can during the project. So, the Principal Designer needs to consider “how” we build a project design and where possible, they need to design out any risks or temporary work requirements such as propping during the project design process. The Principal Contractor needs to consider the temporary works during their tender stage submission so it is considered, and the solutions can be considered before starting on site!
What was it like at the start of your career?
When I started my graduate job in 2009 the recession had hit and the company I worked for had no work in Scotland so luckily, I was transferred to Heathrow Airport in London England instead of being made redundant.
“In the first 2 years of my career I was the only female onsite out of a team of 200. I didn't have any role models that looked or acted like me.
Alongside this my project was 9 hours away from home and to be honest, I didn’t cope well either. I felt isolated from loved ones and found it difficult to make friends there. I almost gave up on civil engineering at that low point! However, 18 months later I got out of that placement role and I ended up on a new project in Yorkshire where the people were friendly and the managers supportive (I even made friends!). I got to learn a lot more and progressed well. Who knows where I would have ended up if I hadn’t pushed through that rough part in my life? I learned to stand up for myself and to advocate for those around me in return.
So, if you feel at anytime something isn’t right for you, ask yourself why? Is the activity, the people or something else? Then ask yourself, how do I make this better/ fix it? It’s ok to say that something isn’t right for you. Know yourself and trust our instincts.
What’s your hints and tips for anyone thinking of joining the Construction Industry?
Research it - there are loads of websites about construction and the jobs available, so see what looks interesting and check it out.
Go for it - the only person in charge of your career trajectory is you! You are your own advocate, your own guru and the only one holding yourself back.
Make meaningful connections along the way – the best experiences I’ve had have been within supportive and friendly work environments! Remember we spend most of our time and days at work, so find ways to enjoy it!
Don’t be afraid to shake things up - The industry is forever changing and the role I currently work in didn’t exist until I started it. We need people from diverse backgrounds to share their knowledge and experiences to help make the world a better place.
If something isn’t right, do something about it - Don’t be like me and wait 18 months before deciding to make a change, do it now. It will make your life better in the long run.
Ask questions – it's the only way to find out the answer.
LinkedIn: Jemma Quin Beng Ceng Mice.
Platforms: The temporary works forum - In 2009 a group of construction professionals came together because they shared concerns about temporary works and formed the Temporary Works forum (TWf). The TWf is made up of over 200 companies and they meet every three months to discuss temporary works. We also produce guidance documents on topics ranging from how to set up a company’s temporary works procedure to scaffold design. All the resources are free, and we even have a temporary works awareness eLearning course you can carry out to find out more about it. You may even notice a familiar face in the videos. The website is www.twforum.org.uk.
The Temporary Works eLearning package - http://twflearning.org.uk/.