6th November Journal Column

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

I’ve spoken several times about the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) this year, and here we are with it hitting the headlines once again.

First there were plans to scrap the 13 cards and introduce one smart card to eliminate the number of fake cards, which according to recent news hasn’t been too successful. Now, there’s been a call for construction safety tests to be made more vigorous following the recent scandal that test centres were taking cash to rig health and safety exams. I really can’t comprehend this, is it really worth risking someone’s life just to pass a test the first time? What is the point in doing a job if you aren’t doing it safely?

Some of the fraudulent qualifications were used to get work on building sites, a school and in probably one of the most dangerous places to be around, a power station.

The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) want the current test system to be replaced by a one day course to be paid for by the employers.

UCATT believe the CSCS cards still have significant value, which I totally agree with, the current system that is in place is one that everyone is aware of. Everyone in the industry knows what the cards are and what they represent.

It’s not about changing the cards, but more about changing the way in which firms acquire one. The current test is reasonably simple, a standard tick box exam which could be passed by somebody with good luck and a good ability to guess. The test needs to be able to prove that construction workers know their business.

I fully support the UCATT suggestion to introduce a one day course, yes it might cost the employer but so does the current test that you have to take part in. At least this way you can be certain your staff are fully aware of what they’re doing and that the company can operate safely.

Making it more difficult to acquire a CSCS card means we can be more certain than ever that companies and construction sites are operating safely, meaning we can protect the excellent reputation that the majority of the industry holds. Let’s not let a few cases of senseless fraudulent behaviour tarnish what I know is a good, honest and hard-working industry.

Construction is the UKs most dangerous employment sector. In the past five years alone, 221 workers have died. Surely paying a little extra money to ensure the safety of your staff and customers is worth it? In my eyes it certainly is …