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Construction plant operator

Construction plant operators work with machinery and equipment used on building sites.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £14,000 to £35,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

Some employers may ask for GCSEs in subjects like English, maths, and design and technology. They may also ask for vocational qualifications like a diploma in construction and the built environment, or a plant-related technical certificate.

Previous experience in industry or of operating other types of machines may help, as will a basic knowledge of vehicle mechanics.

You could find work as a general site operative to gain some on-site experience. Once you're working, your employer may offer you training in plant operation.

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship.

CITB have information about construction careers, training and qualifications.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • good concentration
  • the ability to follow detailed instructions
  • the ability to work at height for some jobs

3. What you'll do

Depending on your job, you'll work with the machinery and equipment used on major civil engineering projects, construction and house building sites, roadworks, demolition sites, quarries and railways. You could use machines like:

  • 180 and 360 degree excavators
  • earth moving bulldozers and dump trucks
  • loading shovels
  • mobile and crawler cranes
  • tower cranes
  • compactors used for levelling out work areas
  • piling rigs
  • concrete pumps

You'll carry out daily safety checks on the machine you are using, and change buckets and other attachments. You'll need a good level of fitness for climbing in and out of cabs.

You could also use forklifts to unload and move materials around the site.

If you operate a crane, you'll work with a slinger signaller who'll attach the loads and direct you by signals or radio.

4. Salary

Starter: £14,000 to £19,000

Experienced: £20,000 to £30,000

Highly Experienced: £35,000

Overtime and bonus payments may increase your salary.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work around 40 hours a week, but your hours may vary depending on deadlines.

Most of your work will be outdoors, and conditions may be noisy and dirty. You may work at height when operating equipment like tower cranes or larger excavators.

You'll travel between jobs, and some contracts may involve overnight stays.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into construction management, site supervision, estimating, lift planning and supervision.

You could become a plant or crane supervisor, or a plant coordinator selecting the machinery needed for each new job and assessing new equipment.

You could also move into selling plant equipment.

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Last updated: 18 August 2017