6 February 2023

Construction Sector Finalises the Establishment of the Plant Sector Representative Organisation

A number of construction-based federations have now fully established a plant-focussed Sector Representative Organisation (SRO) known as the Plant Sector Representative Organisation (PSRO).

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) identified the need for employer-focussed SROs to work with Standard Setting Bodies (SSBs), such as CITB in agreeing suitable qualifications and any additional sector requirements for use with any CSCS-logoed card schemes.

The need for a plant-based SRO was identified because both of a collective concern over the then sale by CITB of the leading plant card scheme, CPCS, and an increasing proliferation of plant-based card schemes being offered to the construction sector.

This need was identified through a number of roadshows led by the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) on card schemes during 2018 and 2019. Employers said they felt it was not clear what the various card schemes were offering, with each having different levels of standards and delivery methods. Employers also said they felt that there should be national minimum technical and delivery standards set by an industry-led body for all card schemes to abide by.

CPA shared the feedback with other associations and federations who have direct involvement in construction plant operations and in early 2020, formed the now named Plant Sector Representative Organisation (PSRO).

A Board was established, consisting of representatives from the partner bodies – Build UK, Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), Home Builders Federation (HBF), National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) and the Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA). The pandemic initially delayed progress but formation work resumed in mid-2021, resulting in the PSRO now being fully established as a Private Limited Company, ensuring its impartiality.

The principal aim of the PSRO is to represent the users and owners of construction plant and advise both industry and any relevant authoritative bodies, including the CLC, on the standards required for the training, assessment and certification of plant-based occupations. These occupations include operators, maintenance, installation, inspection, hire, delivery and direct-supporting roles.

Two sub-groups have also been established. These report to the Board and include a Technical Review Group and a Certificating Bodies Group. The Technical Review Group consists of representatives from each of the partner bodies and its role is to advise the Board on skills, training and card scheme certification processes. Representatives on the group need to have both good knowledge of plant card schemes and qualifications, as well as being actively involved within plant operations. The group also has representation from both the unions and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Certificating Bodies Group was formed to provide the card schemes and awarding organisations with a voice to the PSRO Board to ensure collaborative working in order to provide the right level and type of services to industry.

One of the first and most important tasks of the Technical Review Group was the development of a competency framework. This sets out the principles that benchmark competency, including the components that define the requirements for skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours. It is divided into four sections and defines what the principles are for competency and certification by clarifying each learning journey stage, and what the compliance requirements are at those stages for both employers and certificating bodies.

The framework further details the compliance requirements for certification bodies, ensuring clarity, transparency and consistency for card schemes that wish to attain CSCS Partner Card Scheme recognition and bear the CSCS logo. The framework itself does not provide the technical competencies for specific occupations or equipment types, but acts as the signpost to what technical standards and processes certificating bodies need to map their training and assessment programmes.

It is a requirement of the CLC that any new card scheme wishing to bear the CSCS logo must first demonstrate that they have the support of industry, which for plant schemes needs to be sought from the PSRO. Support however will only be provided once a scheme’s standards have been benchmarked against the competency framework. When they have gained the support of the PSRO can they proceed with an application to CSCS.

An additional CLC card scheme criteria is that the SSB and the SRO agree the minimum card scheme qualifications and alternatives. CITB and the PSRO have now agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sets out how the two organisations will work together on the implementation of any relevant requirements of the card scheme criteria. This includes the PSRO in providing assistance with the development of the CITB short-duration plant training standards for plant operators. This is the first such agreement that CITB has drawn up with any SRO.

Following the formation of the limited company, the next stage was the launch of a dedicated website at www.psro.org.uk. This site acts as the public face and providing detailed information on the aims, objectives and current projects of the PSRO. There is also a dedicated page on the Certificating Bodies Group and provides each of them with an opportunity to showcase their scheme’s products, along with a downloads page where the PSRO competency framework, Board meeting notes, etc. can be viewed and downloaded. The PSRO is further organising a webinar in early 2023 to discuss the work of the PSRO and provide further clarity to employers on competency requirements, carding and certification schemes.

Kevin Minton, Chair of the PSRO Board said: “Feedback from the sector indicated that respect for card schemes is relatively low in terms of assessment and quality assurance and that the variations amongst the card schemes is causing confusion with employers, who have limited time available to understand them.

“On behalf of the PSRO Board Members, we’re pleased that the construction sector federations have come together to form the PSRO and are starting to provide overarching solutions to these employer concerns. We also acknowledge the co-operation of CITB and of all the card schemes who have joined the Certificating Bodies Group. “We’re collectively working together to provide long-term solutions and assurance to the sector and meeting the aim of the PSRO in ensuring the supply of operatives for the plant occupations that possess a level of competence achieved in an efficient and sustainable way,” Kevin continued.