Construction News

Tue March 02 2021

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How to manage plant operators

20 May 14 An industry guide to managing plant operators has been published by the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA).

The guide, Competence to Operate Construction Plant *, has been produced with the backing of the Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group.

It sets out to clarify methods for employers to manage, develop and record employees' competences to operate all types of plant. The Health & Safety Executive and the Construction Industry Training Board were also involved in its production.

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their plant operators are competent. The process of ensuring competence requires cooperation between employers, training providers and operators. While there are several industry certification schemes, none of these are specifically required by law.

The CPA said that “many organisations see training and possession of a card as a proxy for competence; this is a dangerous assumption. It may indicate a general level of ability to operate plant but does not take into account the difficulty of the task, the complexity of the environment or the experience of the operator. These all have a bearing on the successful management of the task.”

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This new document sets out a four-stage process for managing operators’ competence: selection, training and assessment, developing competence and life-long learning. 

Heather Bryant, HM chief inspector of construction and chair of the HSE’s Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC), said: “The advice in this document is straightforward, comprehensive and easy to adopt. It has been prepared by industry representatives to demonstrate realistic means of complying with legal duties. However, following the guidance is not compulsory and may go further than the minimum you need to do in order to comply with the law.  I thank those who have been involved in its preparation and commend the guidance to anyone who employs people who work with construction plant and those with an interest in such matters.”

Competence to Operate Construction Plant is available for free download from the CPA website at

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