Some common problems

The following are typical of some common problems the resident engineer – frequently referred to as ‘the RE’ below – may have to deal with.
1. The contractor will not undertake some variation of the work the RE orders unless he receives a VO signed by the engineer in advance. This usually means the contractor wants to know in advance what he will be paid for the varied work. In most cases the RE should have enough experience to advise how the varied work will be paid for. The contractor is, however obliged to carry out such work as instructed and the engineer will have to issue a VO stating the pay rates to be applied as determined by the contract.
2. The contractor claims that the RE’s clarification of the details of some work varies that work and entitles him to extra payment, but the RE decides no payment should be made. If the contractor continues in his claim, the RE should forward it to the engineer with details, forewarning the contractor that if the engineer agrees no payment is due, the contractor will have to decide if he will take the matter to adjudication.
3. The RE approves some material, workmanship or method of working of the contractor, but later finds the engineer thinks the RE’s approval was wrong. If the error is one which the engineer feels he must rectify, he must do so by negotiation with the contractor, if necessary agreeing some extra payment to the contractor for abortive work. But, if the engineer suspects the contractor has taken advantage of the RE’s failure to appreciate the consequences of the contractor’s proposal, or has concealed such consequences from the RE, he may decide to countermand the resident RE’s decision without agreeing any recompense to the contractor.
4. A problem frequently occurring is when the RE has to consider whether some excavation for a foundation has reached satisfactory foundation material.
The problem can be compounded by the fact that to refer it to the engineer may cause a delay to the job, giving the contractor reason to make a delay claim. But, if the RE is in doubt as to whether the material is satisfactory he must refer the matter to the engineer (or his geotechnical adviser).
However, the RE should have foreseen the problem and taken steps in good time to investigate what the ground conditions are likely to be, either by undertaking hand augering of the foundation site or, if necessary, using the contingency money under the contract to instruct the contractor to excavate a trial hole paid under dayworks (see Sections 13.8 and 16.3).