Plant operators work with machinery used on construction sites and roadworks. Machinery includes 360 degree excavators, bulldozers and dumper trucks for moving earth; static tower cranes, mobile and rough terrain cranes for lifting and moving materials; and compactors such as rollers and small machines known as whacker plates used for flattening out work areas. Operators also use fork lifts and telescopic handlers to move or load building materials.
In addition to driving and operating plant machinery, operators change buckets and other attachments, maintain equipment and carry out daily safety checks.
A banksman/woman may work with the operator at ground level, checking the position and depth of an excavation, or directing the operator by signals or radio when visibility is restricted.
Plant operators usually work a 39-hour week, but working hours vary in order to meet deadlines. Unsocial hours are common.
Construction plant operators work outdoors in all weathers. Conditions can be noisy, dirty and dusty. Some machines may be open to the weather while others have heated cabs. Certain jobs involve working at heights.
Protective clothing including safety helmets, ear defenders and goggles are worn. Travel to sites is required and this may be local or further afield. Depending on the contract, there may be periods spent away from home. A full driving licence is often preferred.
To be a construction plant operator you should:
Plant operators are employed by building or civil engineering contractors, local authorities and other public organisations, and plant hire companies. It may be possible to work abroad on contract or to progress to supervisory positions and construction site management.
Plant operators may also move into specialised areas of work such as estimating, or become plant coordinators, selecting the machinery needed for each new project and evaluating new machinery. Plant sales are another area open to those with in-depth knowledge of the machinery. Self-employment is common, either as an owner-operator or on a labour-only basis for a contractor.
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