This apprenticeship has been retired

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Overview of the role

Surfacing and resurfacing vast stretches of the public and privately owned highway network.

Road surfacing operative

Reference Number: ST0693

Details of standard


Road Surfacing Operative (RSO) is a multi-disciplined role critical to the country’s infrastructure. RSOs are responsible for the surfacing, resurfacing and improvement of vast stretches of the public and privately owned highway network, covering all road types from motorways to residential streets. Approximately 20 million tonnes of asphalt is laid each year by RSOs. Operatives work in a wide range of different environments and will spend the majority of time outside.

Typical duties include: the operation of a wide range of specialist plant machinery such as planers, asphalt pavers, emulsified bitumen sprayers and compacting rollers; the removal of old/existing surfaces using a mechanical breakup process; the visual inspection and preparation of the underlying surface to receive new surfacing material; the resurfacing of the prepared area using a range of road surfacing machinery often covering vast areas; the alignment and then compaction of the new surface; and the visual inspection and testing of the new surface to ensure full compliance with the specified design.

RSOs will work as part of a team, known as a gang, of between 8 and 14 people directed by a foreman and/or supervisor. Operatives will perform multiple roles within the gang including machine driver, machine operator, roller driver, rake hand, planer driver, and planer operator. As well as being excellent team players, RSOs must develop a safety-first attitude, learning how to carry out works without risk to themselves, others or the environment. They must also be adaptable, prepared for outdoor working and a variety of shift patterns in order to minimise disruption to the road user and travelling public.

Employers of all sizes exist within this industry, from small enterprises running a single gang to multi-national organisations involved in operations across numerous countries and continents.


Road Surfacing Operatives are required to know and understand:

  • The various road surfacing techniques including the application and use of primers, epoxy or thermoplastic resins, bituminous emulsions, and various types of aggregate including their limitations and characteristics.
  • How to work in accordance with the National Highway Sector Schemes, Industry Codes of Practice, the New Roads & Street Works Act and other guidance relevant to the occupation.
  • Responsibilities under relevant legislation including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Provision and Use of Workplace Equipment 1998 and Manual Handling Operations regulations 1992.
  • Risk assessments, method statements and other official guidance required in order to undertake work.
  • The structure of the highway, civil engineering methods including the principles of water drainage and construction technology.
  • Plant and machinery such as planers, floating screed pavers, rollers, chippers, loading shovels and large hydraulic breakers and their correct usage.
  • Powered units and tools such as disc cutters, breakers, floor-saws, compactor plates, self propelled rollers and hand tools and their correct usage.
  • Different road categories and types and construction materials appropriate to each together with relevant working methods.
  • Drawings, plans and specifications in order to identify what works are required.
  • Traffic management systems and how to work safely within them.
  • The principles of measurement and how to apply them.

On completion the Road Surfacing Operative will be able to:

  • Lay and compact road surfaces using all forms of asphalt and ancillary productssuch as bond coat and bituminous jointing compounds, in accordance with relevant specifications and industry best practise.
  • Prepare and operate large specialist resurfacing plant and machinery such as  planers to remove the existing surface, floating screed pavers laying asphalt, rollers, chippers, loading shovels and large hydraulic breakers.
  • Prepare and operate powered units and tools  such as disc cutters, breakers, floor-saws and compactor plates.
  • Carry out the excavation (planing) and reinstatement of the highway, install street ironworks.
  • Identify, locate and excavate around underground services to avoid strikes and loss of service.
  • Apply appropriate health, safety,  environmental and ecological procedures when working on the roads, including the movement, storage, lifting and handling of resources.
  • Plan, undertake and inspect work safely, efficiently and productively.
  • Read, interpret and work to drawings, specifications and highways information.
  • Work safely within temporary traffic management (utilising sterile safety zones, traffic lights, signage, cones and barriers) as required by legislation and industry standards to protect all parties whilst works are undertaken.
  • Communicate effectively using oral and written communication methods.
  • Work effectively within a team environment, cooperating and supporting team members when required.
  • Use own time effectively in order to consistently complete work on time to agreed programmes.

Road Surfacing Operatives are required to:

  • Promote a positive safety culture in the working environment.
  • Be polite and courteous when dealing with colleagues, clients and the public.
  • Apply equality, diversity and inclusion in dealing with others.
  • Show a willingness to be adaptable, adjusting to changing work instructions.
  • Display the confidence to resist pressures to work following unsafe practices.



Typical duration is 15-18 months. 

English and Maths:

Individuals without Level 1 in English and Maths will need to achieve this level and take the test for Level 2 English and Maths prior to taking the end-point assessment. For those with an education, health and care plan or a legacy statement, the apprenticeship’s English and Maths minimum requirement is Entry Level 3. A British Sign Language qualification is an alternative to English qualifications for those for whom this is their primary language.  

Standard Review:

This standard will be reviewed after three years.

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Status: Retired
Level: 2
Reference: ST0693
Version: 1.0
Date updated: 31/05/2022
Approved for delivery: 3 July 2019
Route: Construction and the built environment
Typical duration to gateway : 15 months (this does not include EPA period)
Maximum funding: £9000
LARS Code: 476
EQA Provider: Ofqual
Employers involved in creating the standard: Tripod Crest Limited, Eurovia Limited, Hanson Contracting, MAC Surfacing Limited, Tarmac Trading Limited, Toppesfield Limited, Power Plane Limited, Aggregate Industries UK Limited, DP Cold Planing Limited, F&T Goodwin Limited

Version log

Version Change detail Earliest start date Latest start date Latest end date
1.1 Funding band revised. 21/02/2022 Not set Not set
1.0 Retired 03/07/2019 20/02/2022 Not set

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