Relationship between the resident engineer and the contractor’s agent

The RE must not be surprised to find that, on a new job, he is at first treated with considerable circumspection by the agent. He has to be, because one of the unknown factors the contractor has yet to discover which is of considerable importance to him, is what kind of RE will be in charge. The agent will  can daily affect the contract work. He will want to know what special matters are the concern of the RE and how he will wish to handle liaison between them. In like manner, the RE will be waiting to observe how competent the agent is and what degree of trust can be placed upon him, in order to find out what degree of supervisory control will have to be exercised.

The agent will want the RE to be fair, reasonable, and understanding. He will want clear decisive instructions from the RE, and prompt answers to his requests for information. He will want information and instructions about some work well before he starts on it; not after, or when he is part way through.
He will object to an RE who is too keen on interfering in matters that should properly be handled by the contractor, or who makes contact with his subcontractors without the express permission of the contractor beforehand. He will expect all the RE’s directions to be given only to him – except in cases justified by emergency.
This does not affect traditional practices adopted for contact between the RE’s staff and the contractor’s staff, such as when the RE’s inspectors contact the agent’s section foremen.
If the RE has any complaints, the agent will wish to be told about them personally. The RE should never make a complaint initially by letter. Such a letter will seem unfair to the agent, because a letter puts a complaint ‘on record’ before the agent has any chance to show the complaint is misplaced.
An especial nuisance to the agent is an RE who is too meticulous and rigid in his views – who thinks it necessary to measure up every cubic yard of concrete to the third decimal place; or who insists that every word in the specification must be exactly and rigidly complied with, irrespective of the need to apply such conditions in every case. To make reasonable judgements that are accepted as fair by both the contractor and the engineer, should be the principal aim of every RE.