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Treatment of plant drivers calls for trade association

LETTERS Prize letter

Sir, I am a 34-year-old plant operator who has worked in construction and demolition since leaving school. For the past six years I have operated plant in London using a certificate of competency issued by a CITBaccredited trainer, working at Accredited Safety Training Services.

In January this year, Edmund Nuttall refused to accept my ticket, even though they had accepted it on many other previous occasions, as had every major contractor I have been on hire to.

To maintain my occupation I decided to retake my test with the CITB. This cost me £376! When I arrived at the test centre I had to fill out what my examiner said was two hours of meaningless paperwork.

I was then told the machine I was to do my test on had been modified (it was hired from a farmer who preferred the dipper arm and boom levers the opposite way round) and the examiner added that he couldn't operate the machine. In the end he let me do my test on a mini digger.

I then did the touch screen safety test, which allows 45 mins to complete. I was in and out of the test centre in seven minutes with a 100 per cent score.

My provisional certificate was valid for 60 days from March. It is now August and I am still waiting for a valid ticket, but I am allowed to operate plant in the meantime.

I cannot understand why I am not allowed to operate plant with a valid certificate of competency but I am allowed to operate on an expired CITB certificate.

It appears to me that the CITB has bought the Major Contractors Group with a £750 million sweetener in order to hold the construction workforce to ransom.

While working on this expired CITB ticket I was asked to use a mini digger to lift 5 m drilling rods under 70,000 volt power lines, using one strap looped around the quick hitch and a labourer to hold the end of the rod. The machine had a big sticker on the boom saying 'do not use as a crane'.

When I refused to operate the machine on safety grounds, I was told by my plant manager if I do not wish to drive the machine I would no longer be of any use.

I therefore tendered my resignation, which was accepted under my terms.

I believe we need to form a plant operator association to stand up for the health and safety of the workforce and to stop this sort of thing happening again.

Ian Simpson Morecambe, Lancashire