10th July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Back in February I wrote about the Construction Skills Certification Scheme’s (CSCS) plans to scrap the current suite of 13 cards and introduce one smart card to be used by all construction workers. I was fully on board with the plan and thought they were needed now more than ever.

The plan was for the new cards to be simpler to understand and to reduce the time site managers spent checking workers cards, with the hope it would eliminate the number of fake cards being used around the country, something that has become quite an issue of late.

After being introduced in 2010, all CSCS cards now have microchip technology embedded in them, making it easier for site managers to access information on each worker. The chip stores qualification information and can be read with either a dedicated reader device or on a smartphone or tablet app – there really is an app for everything now!

Yet despite it being easier than ever to check cards, 69 per cent of construction workers are still using the dated paper-based system with only 6 per cent using the new smart technology.

A survey of 1,180 construction workers showed that whilst 86 per cent of cardholders had their cards checked, only 43 per cent were checked to see if they were actually qualified.

Of those managers who actually check cards on their construction sites, one in five said they have seen fake cards in the past year meaning those workers are most likely unqualified for the job they have been doing. Using fake cards is a fraudulent offence, and it’s becoming increasingly common, with many cases ending up in court, and rightly so, if you break the law you’ve got to be prepared to face the consequences.

Recently, a site manager became suspicious of three people on site and what he thought were fake CSCS cards, he was well within his rights to report it and it ended up with one man being arrested and given 18 months imprisonment for being in possession of several fake cards, and to him I’d ask, was it really worth the risk?

Companies should be taking advantage of how easy it is to check cards and qualifications with the introduction of smart technology. I really thought it would take off more than it has; work needs to be done to increase the use of it and finally make basic visual card checks a thing of the past.

There’s always more to be done, whether it’s site managers making more of an effort to check CSCS cards, or workers sharing intelligence and reporting anything suspicious. Let’s pull together and protect the reputation of our industry, all these scandalous stories appearing in the press of arrests and fraudulent behaviour are giving a bad name to what I know is a good, honest and hard-working industry.