Every dirty detail of becoming a Construction Materials Tester
Two phrases you’re likely to hear on any construction site in Australia are, “Change it to Triple J,” and, “Measure twice, cut once.” While not being carpenters, the second one is a proverb to live by for those in Construction Materials Testing (CMT). Accurate measurement at a foundation level means things get done right the first time, saving money and stress for everyone involved.
From a driveway in a cul-de-sac, to the Sydney Opera House, every construction project has a common denominator: before the first brick is laid, or the slab, construction materials testing must determine whether the quality of the materials and site are fit for purpose.
With thousands of construction and infrastructure projects planned and underway across Australia, it’s a great time to get qualified in construction materials testing. Affectionately known as a ‘soily’, you could join a vital industry, or rise head and shoulders above the rest in a tight construction talent pool.
Learning the skills of Construction Materials Testing (CMT) could mean working with soil, asphalt, concrete, or aggregates. It’s a physical role, spending much of the time outside collecting soil samples, concrete testing, as well as some inside work doing laboratory analysis.
Working within the construction sector, you could be responsible for determining properties of the minerals on site and their suitability. Is it clay, silt, sand, gravel, or a combination? Getting the literal ‘groundwork’ right is key to mitigating risks in construction and the long term viability of a project.
A typical day as a Construction Materials Tester.
After checking in with a site supervisor and perhaps the site engineer, you’ll gather soil samples across a designated area. This could be collecting physical samples or collecting data.
Once you’ve collected physical samples it’s over to the lab for testing. Soil is often dried in specialised ovens before it’s split into several different samples. You may carry out a compaction process to determine the ideal moisture content. Depending on the material, testing and analysis may also be done to determine the shear strength, compressibility and the hydraulic conductivity.
Further to this, possessing a licence for Nuclear Gauge Testing will allow you to use this specialist device to determine the overall density in the field. This might be needed to ensure the stability of a site before works begin, or to determine things such as possible flood damage to road base.
Why become a Construction Materials Tester?
The need for faster testing turnaround is growing necessity within the construction industry. Many construction employers are up skilling from within their ranks as well as hiring qualified testers, making this a valuable addition to your CV.
What makes a great soily? Clear communication and negotiation is vital, as you’ll often be interacting with engineers (and their various personality types). It’s definitely the right role for you if you’re details and data driven, being a unique mix of a hands-on and administrative.
We’ve compacted a lot into the Materials Testing Lab Tech course. Employers are also able to enrol staff to up skill or ensure that testing practices are up to date.
What else? What’s next?
As well as this qualification most employers will also specify that you’ll need your own car and driver’s license in order to visit different sites and labs. You’ll also need a reasonable level of fitness, with the ability to lift heavy items on a regular basis.