Notes from a Site Engineer 3

by Fiona Wark 2 years ago in career

Topic of the Day: Dirt

Notes from a Site Engineer 3

Before you all scoff and tell me I'm ridiculous - 'what are you on about - dirt! Stupid woman!' - let me tell you one thing. Apparently, not everyone walks onto an earthworks project or a construction site expecting them to be dirty. I had one graduate in particular who actually expressed it as 'it's so dirty' about the site that we were both on. I will admit, my eye roll at this observation was hard enough to give me a headache. Admittedly, because it was a remedial project and an old landfill as well as an earthworks site, that site was more probably more dirty than some. Sites are not hospital wards or microbiology laboratories. Dirt is, let's be honest, very much the nature of the beast.

With the best will in the world, any site will be slightly grimy. The site offices will not be as neatly packaged and hermetically sealed as our normal ivory towers. There is likely to be a film of dust over most things that spend any time in a site office. Keeping the floor completely clean is a task as endless as painting the Forth Rail Bridge - no sooner has it been cleaned than someone comes in from out on site and drags dust and muck back across the newly cleaned surface.

The best way to deal with this fact? Accept that dirt is inevitable.

You can try and implement rules about people taking site boots off at the door, and try to have no PPE in the offices themselves by having drying rooms and changing rooms; but from experience - the first rule will be broken within a day of it being set, if you're lucky, and somehow, the PPE will find its way back into the offices - be it because the drying room was full, or because it was tipping down and the office was closer. Dirt will also inevitably find its way into site offices on people's site notebooks, site plans and on any other stationery that may be used whilst on site. It can also be found on mobile phones, trust me, which have come in from being out on site.

(Note: None of this applies to sites where PPE requires to be cleaned and/or disinfected and, therefore, MUST be kept segregated from the working environment).

Like I said before - we must accept that dirt, to some degree, is inevitable. That on windy days, if you have hair that goes below your hard hat, you will end up with both tangled hair and dust in those tangles. That on those same windy days, chances are you'll get a free exfoliation. You will get dirt under your fingernails, and if you're very unlucky, up your nose and in your ears. Your trouser and jersey cuffs will get dirty, the soles of your socks may get dirty (try taking off your site boots without - even absentmindedly - putting one socked foot on the floor of the site cabin). You will pick up dust and dirt, seemingly magnetically.

If you are particularly dirt, or dust, or germ-phobic I suggest that the site is a poor environment for you and that you are going to be, at the very minimum, in a constant state of high anxiety, if not triggered permanently. If you have the same cleanliness standards as most of the human race, I would suspect that, at the minimum, you are always going to want to have antibacterial dry hand wash (in case the toilet and/or sink are unavailable for a proper hand wash) and antibacterial wipes or spray available. I used Dettol wipes in handy packets - they're available at the pound shop if you're on a budget. Admittedly, wipes are not particularly environmentally friendly, so you may prefer a spray and re-usable cloth approach.

I don't mind the dirt so much. I'm lucky in that regard - I've always quite liked being a bit of a mucky pup.

(I'm sorry to anyone who thought this post might be about something other than actual dirt...)

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Fiona Wark

Woman in science and engineering. Single dog parent. Climber. Lover of the outdoors. Opinionated introvert. 

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