CPCS Red Card

If you are seeking a career working with heavy machinery and equipment in the construction industry, then the first step in this direction is to work towards the CPCS Red Card. The Red Trained Operator Card will demonstrate to employers that you are a trained and qualified operator. it will enable you to legally work as a plant operator on a construction site. In this article, we will explain what you need to do to be eligible to apply for a Red Card, how to apply and also explain the transition from the Red Card to the CPCS Blue Card.

What is the CPCS Red Card?

The CPCS Red Card, also known as the Trained Operator Card, is a card offered by the CPCS. It is for those who are at the beginning of their career in plant operation. It enables an individual to work in their chosen field (under supervision) while they complete the relevant NVQ or other relevant vocational qualification.

How do I get a CPCS Red Card?

Step One: CPCS Training

Before you apply for a CPCS Red Card, you will need to undergo training in your chosen area of plant machinery or construction site equipment. The CPCS has a wide range of categories related to plant operation which have specific training requirements for each. Usually, your employer will assist you to undertake training in your chosen area as undertaking CPCS training as an individual can be very expensive. A list of approved CPCS training providers can be found on the CPCS website.

Step two: Take the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test

The next step in the application process for the CPCS Red Card is to pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. This is commonly known as the CSCS Test. This requirement provides assurance to CPCS that your health and safety knowledge is sufficient in order to undertake your role safely. There is a mobile app available for this test that allows you to revise the content of the test and book your assessment at an approved test centre. To apply for the Red Card you will need to have passed this test within the last 2 years.

Step three: Take the CPCS Theory Test

In order to obtain a Red Card, you will need to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the theory behind your chosen discipline. There is a CPCS Theory Test for each category of plant operation which needs to be undertaken at a CPCS Test Centre.

Step four: Take the CPCS Practical Test

The final stage of the application process is to take the CPCS Practical Test. This test will assess your ability to operate your chosen area of plant machinery and is conducted by a CPCS Tester at a CPCS Test Centre. This test needs to be taken within 6 months of passing your CPCS Theory Test.

After you have completed stage four of the process, and have passed the CPCS Practical Test for your chosen category, you will be able to submit your documentation to apply for the CPCS Red Card. The cost of the CPCS Red Card itself is included in the CPCS Technical Test fees.

Can the CPCS Red Card be renewed?

The CPCS Red Card lasts for 2 years and it is expected that, within that time, you complete the relevant NVQ in your chosen category. Once you have achieved the NVQ qualification you will be eligible to apply for the CPCS Blue Card (Competent Operator Card).

However, if achieving your NVQ qualification has been delayed for whatever reason it is possible to extend your CPCS Red Card for 12 months. To do this, you will need to provide evidence to the CPCS that you are currently undertaking a relevant vocational qualification related to your chosen category. It costs £25 to renew the CPCS Red Card and can be done by calling the CPCS Helpline on 0844 815 7274.

If your Red Card expires before you have completed your NVQ or other vocational qualification it is possible to apply for an additional 2 year Red Card. To do this you will need to go through the same process as before, completing the relevant CITB Health, Safety and Environment test and the CPCS Technical Tests.

Moving from the CPCS Red Card to CPCS Blue Card

When you have completed your NVQ or other vocational qualification you will be eligible to upgrade your CPCS card to the Blue Competent Operator Card. You will have 12 months to do this and the application process is straightforward.

To upgrade your CPCS Red Card you need to have:

  1. A valid CPCS Red Card (or the card must not have expired more than 12 months ago)
  2. Have a valid CITB Health, Safety and Environment test certificate
  3. Have passed the relevant SVQ or NVQ in your chosen category

With these three elements in place, you can contact the CPCS Helpline in order to upgrade your card. Alternatively, it is possible to download a CPCS Application Form from the CPCS website and post your application form. The CPCS will require evidence that you have completed your vocational qualification and will accept a copy of your certificate as proof of this. It costs £25 to upgrade your card and this can either be paid by calling the CPCS Helpline or by enclosing a cheque if you are submitting your application in the post.


Acquiring the CPCS Red Trained Operator Card is an important step in your career as a plant operator. To be eligible for the Red Card you need to meet certain health and safety requirements, as well as having an adequate theory and practical knowledge of your chosen category.

The Red Card is valid for 2 years, during which you will need to complete an NVQ qualification in your chosen field. Once you have achieved this, you can move towards the CPCS Blue Competent Operator Card. This will enable you to progress in your career and move to operating without supervision.