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Competence of construction plant operators

​Background

The operation of construction plant, defined as construction machinery controlled by an operator at all times when in use, has resulted in a number of serious accidents and injuries in Jersey.

In many cases, this is because of a failure to make sure that the operator was adequately trained and assessed as competent to operate the equipment.

Legal requirements

Every employer has a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989 (HSW law), to ensure the health and safety of employees and others who may be affected by their work activities.

This extends to the operation of construction plant and includes:

  • the provision of suitable information
  • instruction
  • training and supervision

All of the above should be incorporated into a safe system of work.

Anyone who operates construction plant, and those in control of construction sites where plant is operated, also have legal obligations under part 2 of the HSW law to make sure it's only operated safely and by competent people. 

Cranes and lifting appliances

Requirements relating to the issuing of a 'certificate of competence' to operators of construction plant listed below are set out in regulation 18 of the Cranes and Lifting Appliances (Jersey) Regulations 1978.

This includes operators of a:

  • crane
  • excavator
  • forklift truck
  • mechanical grab
  • mechanical shovel
  • piling machine

Any operator of other construction plant must also be adequately trained and assessed as competent before operating equipment, unless they're undertaking training under the direct and constant supervision of a competent person.

This equipment includes:

  • dumpers
  • lorry loaders
  • mobile elevating platforms

Cranes and lifting appliances regulations

Rider operated lift trucks

The Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) 6, The Safe Use of Rider Operated Lift Trucks, details the requirements for three stages of training for rider operated lift trucks:

  • basic operator training
  • specific job / familiarisation training
  • ​​​further periodic operator training and monitoring of standards

This continual training and assessment, combined with operator experience, will demonstrate an operator's competence.

This is for equipment such as:

  • forklift trucks
  • rough terrain lift trucks
  • side loaders
  • telescopic material handlers

Safe use of fork lift trucks in the workplace

Competence

Competence is the ability to carry out a task in prescribed circumstances, safely and efficiently.

Competence can be evidenced by demonstrable skill and knowledge and documented training and experience.

Competence is not, however, an 'absolute'. For any given job role, there is progression towards greater competence which will continue to develop incrementally throughout an operator's career. 

Practical guidance

Many see formal training and possession of a training card or assessment scheme in isolation as proving competence in all circumstances, which is a dangerous assumption.

While it may provide reassurance that a general level of ability to operate a specific type of plant has been achieved, it doesn't take into account:

  • the difficulty of the task
  • the complexity of the environment
  • the experience of the operator

​These are critical factors requiring additional management activities in order to properly assess competence.

The publication 'Competence to operate construction plant: Good practice guide', published by the Plant Safety Group in conjunction with the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is recognised by the HSI as providing appropriate structured methods to manage, develop, assess and record employees' competencies.

We will refer to this guidance when assessing whether duty holders are meeting their general legal duties in respect of the training and assessment of competence of employees operating construction plant, or those operating such equipment under their control.  

Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) UK publications website
Information on competence on the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website

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