What does a banksman do? A list of primary responsibilities

Updated 27 March 2023

Many work environments involve the use of vehicles and mobile plant operations, which introduces potential risks. Organisations use various interventions to reduce this risk, one of these being to employ banksmen. If a career as a banksman interests you, learning about the role and what is involved is helpful. In this article, we answer the question 'What does a banksman do?', list their main duties, discuss the required training and provide the steps to become one.

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What does a banksman do?

A banksman, also called a traffic marshal, is a trained individual who helps guide the safe manoeuvres of mobile plants and vehicles. A mobile plant is a vehicle or machine for off-road use. Companies might use vehicles or mobile plants in warehouse settings or at construction sites, for example. Banksmen help reduce the risk of any potential accidents associated with manoeuvring these vehicles. Organisations might conduct a risk assessment to identify if a banksman is necessary.

They might try other risk control measures first, such as designating a specific pedestrian-free area for vehicles to manoeuvre. In some environments, these sorts of measures might sufficiently reduce vehicle-associated risks. If they don't, a banksman may be necessary. Banksmen also provide a safety service when companies operate in an unfamiliar environment. If vehicle drivers are unfamiliar with the route they're driving and the potential hazards they're navigating, they might rely more heavily on the observations and directions of a banksman to ensure they manoeuvre the vehicle safely.

Related: Warehouse safety: a guide to minimising risks at work

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What are a banksman's main responsibilities?

Banksmen may work anywhere involving the operation of vehicles or mobile plants. This includes fixed sites, such as construction sites or warehouses, or outdoor locations, such as roads. Banksmen keep work areas clear while operations are underway. They make sure that no colleagues or pedestrians enter the work areas where a driver is operating a piece of machinery. The responsibilities of a banksman fit into two main categories:

1. Guiding vehicle operators

Banksmen physically walk alongside, ahead of or behind vehicles and mobile plants, at a safe distance. They provide assistance to the drivers when needed. For example, if a driver is executing a reversing manoeuvre, their field of vision might be too limited to execute this manoeuvre safely. A banksman helps guide the driver safely, giving them directions and signalling where to go. They ensure they keep sight of each other to continually communicate. For safety reasons, the driver immediately stops the attempted manoeuvre if they can't see their banksman.

Banksmen might also control overall traffic on a site, not simply guide individual manoeuvres. They might lay out safe onsite traffic systems for vehicles, recommending routeing for vehicles. Banksmen may coordinate and manage vehicle traffic on a site to avoid excessive queueing.

Related: The importance of health and safety at work (with tips)

2. Understanding risk

Organisations try to put clear policies and controls in place that fully outline safe vehicle operations. Banksmen understand these measures and enforce risk mitigation provisions. These controls might not always capture every possible scenario, though. Vehicle operators might encounter situations or operations not covered by guidance materials.

In these situations, the company may rely on the banksman's judgement to determine whether an operation can proceed. They employ their knowledge of risk and make a decision about whether such an operation is safe to execute. They might also document and report any such situations they encounter so that organisations can update risk assessments and operating procedures.

Related: What is risk management in the construction industry?

How do banksmen communicate?

Banksmen and drivers agree on a signalling system before starting vehicle manoeuvres. These signals indicate specific actions, such as for the driver to move the vehicle forwards or to the banksman's left, for example. They might use a set of physical signals for providing directions and instructions or opt for verbal communication, possibly via radio. Whether they use verbal or physical signalling might depend on workplace noise levels. As of March 2023, the Health and Safety (Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 details the rules and governance for using both verbal and hand signals to guide vehicle drivers.

They also describe the verbal and hand signals banksmen commonly use. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) details nine common hand signals banksmen use to guide vehicles. For example, to signal a driver that it's safe to start moving a vehicle, a banksman extends both arms fully outwards so they're at roughly a 90-degree angle to their torso. Drivers and banksmen might opt to use different signals than those the HSE outlines. Whatever method they choose, drivers and banksmen agree on a signalling system before starting the manoeuvre and don't deviate from this system to avoid miscommunication.

Related: 6 fun communication games to improve communication skills

Banksman training

Banksman training courses provide individuals with all the skills they require to safely guide workplace vehicle operators. HSE-approved banksman training courses are part of an organisation's legal requirements for safe operations, reducing the risk of accidents when manoeuvring large vehicles. Training courses teach individuals about the responsibilities of a banksman, current relevant health and safety legislation, common sources of risk and potential causes of accidents, preventative measures for common accidents and correct vehicle manoeuvring procedures. This includes signalling conventions banksmen might use to communicate with drivers.

Related: Vocational training: definitions, careers and examples

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How to become a banksman

There are no formal qualifications required for entry into a banksman role. Most employers, though, tend to prefer candidates to have at least 5 GCSEs, grade A*-C, including English and Maths. Employers may also ask that applicants have a valid Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. You can apply for one of these through the CSCS website.

Some vacancies might ask for applicants who already hold a banksman certification. Many employers provide training for this certification on the job to the people they recruit, so this isn't necessarily a requirement to start job seeking. If entering the career interests you, consider the following steps to help give you a competitive advantage and boost your chances of securing a job:

1. Consider an apprenticeship

Although not a requirement, an intermediate or advanced-level apprenticeship gives you a solid banksman career foundation. They provide you with education and experience in a construction environment and help you develop workplace skills. Apprenticeship schemes generally require applicants to have at least 5 GCSEs, including maths and English, grade A*-C. Apprenticeships sometimes offer a direct route into employment. Employers make an investment in your professional development when providing an apprenticeship. They might seek a return on that investment by offering you a full-time position once you've completed the apprenticeship so the skills they've helped you develop can benefit their organisation.

Related: What are apprenticeship benefits? (Plus eligibility)

2. Try to gain relevant work experience

Having transferrable knowledge for working as a banksman might help make you a more attractive recruitment prospect. For example, if you've worked in some other area of warehouse operations before, an employer might have more confidence that you already have a good understanding of associated workplace risks and can operate safely in this environment. Prior experience with vehicle operations can help make you more familiar with the different practical aspects of a banksman's role. If you qualify and work as a forklift driver, for example, you might learn about safe vehicle manoeuvres and signalling conventions.

Related: What is a safe system of work and how to develop one

3. Familiarise yourself with banksman training

Organisations may use different providers when conducting their on-the-job training. Different providers often cover similar areas and competencies, though. Consider researching the syllabus for industry training courses, such as the Road Transport Industry Training Board banksman course. Familiarise yourself with these concepts to understand what your training covers. There are also online training courses you can take as an individual, not via a workplace, that can help familiarise you with risk assessment processes and common hand signals. You can also download a copy of the Health and Safety (Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 from the HSE website.

Related: What are common workplace training methods? (With tips)

4. Develop your soft skills

Industry training courses provide you with the technical competencies for a banksman role. There are also valuable soft skills that can equip you to handle the challenges of a banksman's work. Organisation and communication skills, for instance, help you manage your workload and effectively guide machine operators. Take time to practise and strengthen your soft skills to boost your confidence and employability.

Related: How to improve soft skills in the workplace

5. Apply for vacancies

Take time to prepare your CV. Consider researching CV design conventions to ensure you effectively structure information and showcase your strengths. Once you're happy with your CV, consider applying for banksman positions through recruiter or employer websites. Tailor your CV to each application, making certain you demonstrate any key traits the employer might require for the role, such as experience working outdoors. Social network sites are also a typical place to find opportunities or to communicate with potential employers and build your professional network. If you completed a qualification, see if your college has an employability service for job-search assistance.

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