Construction sites in the UK must follow strict regulations to keep the sites and employees safe. The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) aims to ensure that people with specific roles in the construction industry meet certain skill and health and safety requirements.
The CPCS Card is a skills card for those who operate plant machinery in construction sites. Construction operators use CPCS cards to provide proof of competence in their role.
What is a CPCS Card?
The CPCS card is an identity card that provides assurance to employers that you are competent and have the skills and qualifications to work as a plant operator. A plant operator is someone who works with machinery and equipment on construction sites. The card is also evidence that you meet CPCS health and safety requirements.
The CPCS card scheme is also designed to ensure that plant operators maintain their skills and knowledge over time and refresh their health and safety awareness.
Why Do I Need a CPCS Card?
If you work in the construction industry, you will need some form of identification and proof of your competence.
The Construction Skills Competence Scheme, CSCS, operates a card scheme that covers a wide range of job roles in construction.
But, if you are operating plant machinery on a construction site, you are very likely to need a CPCS card, since this covers a broad range of categories of plant and equipment.
It is not currently a legal requirement to hold a CPCS card, but most employers will require you to have one as a plant worker. This helps them make sure that their sites are both safe and effective. Sites that are Build UK members will require you to hold a CPCS card if you are going to operate machinery while working on them.
CPCS cards cover these job roles:
- Plant operators
- Slinger signallers
- Securing plant and equipment to trailers or vehicles for transportation
- Planning and controlling lifting operations, etc.
What are the CPCS Card Types?
There are three types of CPCS card:
- Red Trained Operator Card
- Blue Competent Operator Card
- Tester Card.
All three types of card require you to complete a theory and a practical test. You will also need to provide evidence of your current experience, qualifications and your skill level.
The Red Trained Operator Card is the first level of CPCS card. At this level, you must pass CPCS Theory and Practical Technical tests, and have a certificate for completing a CITB Health, Safety and Environment test within the past two years. To pass the CPCS tests, you will need to have had training to a specific standard.
The Red Card lasts for two years, but you cannot renew it. After the two years is up, you can then apply for the Blue Competent Operator Card.
The Blue Competent Operator Card is the next level up, after the Red Card. At this level, you must be fully qualified to operate a particular type of plant machinery unsupervised, as well as meeting the necessary health and safety requirements. To gain the Blue Card, you must show evidence of your qualification, hold a valid CITB Health, Safety and Environment certificate, and pass the CPCS Theory and Practical tests.
The CPCS Blue Card is valid for five years, and you can renew it after this time.
The Tester Card qualifies someone to test others for the CPCS scheme. It is the most advanced of the CPCS cards and comes in two stages: Provisional, which lasts for two years; and Full card, which is valid for five years.
How do I Apply for a CPCS Card?
Before applying, you will need to have had training in your chosen category of plant or equipment, and passed the relevant theory, practice, health and safety assessments.
This is your step-by-step route to applying for a CPCS card:
- Pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment touch-screen test. This is also known as the CSCS test, because you also need to pass it to get a CSCS card. This is a multiple-choice test done on a computer. Once passed, the accreditation lasts for two years.
- Decide on the card you are eligible for (Red or Blue). If you do not have the relevant NVQ or SVQ card you cannot apply for the more advanced Blue Card.
- Pass the CPCS Theory test. This tests your knowledge and understanding of the category you are applying for, to work as a plant operator in. You must take this at an approved CPCS test centre.
- Pass the CPCS Practical test. You must do this within six months of taking the Theory test, and while your two-year CITB Health, Safety and Environment certificate is still valid. The Practical test assesses your ability as an operator, and the CPCS Tester will ask you to perform a series of practical activities to show this. Again, this must be at an approved CPCS test centre.
- Submit your paperwork. Some test centres will apply for cards on your behalf, or you can send it to CPCS directly yourself. You gather all your relevant certificates and paperwork together for this. While you are waiting for CPCS to issue your card, the test centre can give you a letter of achievement. This will last 28 days as temporary proof of your qualifications to work on a construction site.
- Continue your professional development. If you hold a Red Card, you have two years to progress to a Blue Card.
How Much Does a CPCS Card Cost?
The candidate will have to get the CPCS card from an accredited CPCS test centre. These test centres offers training courses to provide you with the skills to pass the technical tests to get the card.
The price of CPCS Theory and Practical tests will vary depending on the category of plant operation you wish to be assessed on, and on what your chosen test centre charges.
You must also pay for your CITB Health, Safety and Environment test.
What Does the CPCS Test Involve?
CPCS Test is a three-stage process:
- CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test (CSCS Test)
- CPCS Theory Test
- CPCS Practical Test.
CPCS produces a digital revision guide for the Theory test, and supporting materials for the Practical test, including test length, the sort of activities you will be asked to do, and a copy of the Tester’s sign-off sheet.
Generally, it is easier, and more cost-effective, to apply for a CPCS card while you are working in the construction industry, as your employer may support you with sponsorship.
Whatever level you are starting out at, whether you’re applying for a Red Trained Operator Card, or a Blue Competent Operator card, there are approved CPCS test centres to help you gain your qualification.
The CPCS card is your passport to working as a plant operator in construction, and to developing your career in this industry.