Field supervision is the owner's and the designer's last line of defense. While many contractors have qualified personnel who are conscientious enough to pick up design errors, most contractors view such personnel as an unnecessary burden on the project overhead. Thus, while competent field supervision is, to me, critically important, it seems to be very low on most people's order of priorities. The reasons for this are many.
A graduating engineer has little encouragement to go into the field. The high-dollar jobs are almost always in the office. The attitude of many design firms is that the real engineers are in the office; field people are not real engineers. Along with this attitude is the attitude that the design is never to be questioned. Fortunately, at my company, the field people are treated as equal to the office people. They are listened to, and their input is sought on design problems.
Another problem which directly affects the field work is the reluctance on the part of many designers to see how their designs are actually built. Were designers to spend more time in the field, they would soon learn to avoid unnecessarily difficult construction details. They would also learn that vague details produce vague and sometimes dangerous construction. Can all failures be prevented? Probably not. Can many of them be prevented? I feel that one way they can be is through competent field supervision. Owners and design firms must be convinced that it is in their best interest to hire competent field supervisors and keep them on the payroll.