The term ‘plant’ refers to machinery, equipment and apparatus used for an industrial activity. Typically In construction, ‘plant’ refers to heavy machinery and equipment used during construction works. This may include, for example:
- Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWP’s).
At the smaller scale, there may be some overlap between what is considered plant, small plant, tools, small tools or equipment. Very broadly, ‘tools’ might be considered to be instruments that are used by hand, whereas ‘equipment’ might refer to a set of tools used for a single purpose.
Construction plant is generally re-useable, and so as well as being purchased new, it may be purchased second hand or hired. The Construction Plant Hire Association suggest that, ‘The UK plant hire industry is the best established and most professional in the world, and is worth over £4 billion to the UK economy.’
Construction projects, in particular, large and complex projects, are increasingly dependent on construction plant, and there are a wide range of issues that need to be considered in its use:
- Public safety, employee safety and CDM.
- Programme, lead times and continuity of use.
- Crane zones and lifting operations.
- Storage and theft.
- Power and fuel, maintenance and breakdowns.
- Standards and regulations.
- Logistics, access, segregation and diversions.
Health and safety in particular is vitally important in the deployment and operation of plant on site, particularly in relation to cranes, mobile plant and vehicles. There are a number of regulations that must be adhered to and there is a wide range of guidance available from the Health and Safety Executive.
The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) includes a registration card scheme demonstrating the skills, knowledge and understanding, competence and qualifications of those involved in plant operations.
Nuisance can also be a significant concern in the operation of construction plant, in particular in relation to encroachment onto neighbouring sites, damage to neighbouring property, noise, vibration, dust, mud, disruption to traffic and so on. Careful planning and the strict application of site rules to contractors and sub-contractors can help alleviate such problems, with particular consideration given to; hours of operation, transport routes, washing down of vehicles, damping dust, the provision of hard surfaces for vehicles, the provision of information and help lines and so on.
Complex plant may have additional service requirements, some of which might be provided by the plant supplier:
- Site accommodation.
- Communication links.
- Fabrication and installation.
- Temporary services.
Increasingly, Building Information Modelling (BIM), and the development of Virtual Construction Models (VCM) are being used to organise construction works and the deployment of plant on site, in particular in relation to the use or cranes and other lifting equipment.
According to The Code of Estimating Practice, seventh edition, published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in 2009, the term 'standing plant' refers to, 'Plant retained on site that is not working, but for which a contractor is still liable'.
The Code of Estimating Practice suggests the term ‘general plant’ refers to,’ Part of a contractor’s project overhead calculation for plant, excluded from unit rate calculations, and which is available as a general facility on site. Durations for general plant are usually taken from the tender works programme.’
The Code of Estimating Practice suggests 'down time', or 'standing time' is, ‘The period of time that plant is not operating. This may be due to breakdown, servicing tie or an inability to operate due to other factors.’
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