Plant operator using a machine to transport items on a construction site

Plant operators or plant managers do the ‘heavy lifting’ in construction (quite literally): as well as the digging, the rolling and the demolishing. Find out what the duties of plant operators are, and what overseeing plant operations involves.  

What is a plant operator?

Plant operators on construction sites use heavy machinery to dig, lift and move materials on and around sites.  

In construction, any kind of machine vehicle like a digger, crane, roller, bulldozer or compressor is known as a ‘plant’. Plant operators or plant managers can drive the vehicles or oversee their use on site and usually specialise in one type of equipment.  

What are the day-to-day responsibilities of plant operators and plant managers?

Plant operators can dramatically change landscapes or install impressive structures in a short time. They work closely with the rest of the plant team. As they are in charge of heavy machinery which can be dangerous they must be aware of health and safety practices. Plant operator and manager responsibilities include:   

Overseeing construction plant operations 

  • Using 180 and 360-degree excavators 
  • Moving earth with excavators, bulldozers and dumper trucks 
  • Loading shovels 
  • Operating giant cranes and communicating with ‘slinger signallers’ via radio – workers on the ground who guide the movements of crane operators  
  • Using piling rigs, concrete pumps and forklifts  

Maintenance & repairs 

  • Carrying out safety checks and keeping machines running properly 
  • Changing buckets and other machine attachments 
  • Maintaining equipment and ensuring machinery is regularly serviced  
  • Conducting repairs where necessary 
  • Reporting any faults to supervisors  

Health and safety adherence 

It is the legal responsibility of plant managers to deliver adequate health and safety training to operators of heavy machinery. Plant operators must in turn comply with all safety measures, wear appropriate safety clothing and take care of the health and safety of themselves and their colleagues.  

Dealing with contractors & vendors 

Plant managers and plant co-ordinators have a more supervisory role, and while they will operate machinery, they will also be expected to deal with much of the administrative work that happens on site. They negotiate rental agreements, deal with hire companies, contractors and vendors, and manage the official plant paperwork.  

Data and general housekeeping 

Plant managers need to keep records of owned or rented machinery, and have a good understanding of budgets and forecasting. They will be expected to make profit and loss projections and create reports and spreadsheets.  

Find out more about a career as a plant operator

Working as a plant operator requires a range of different skills, such as good spatial awareness, attention to detail, patience and the ability to work well within a team. You will be working on noisy building sites doing physically demanding labour, so it may not be for everyone. If you like working outdoors and with your hands, it could be the job for you. 

Visit Talentview to find plant operator opportunities

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