HSE cautions on card use after Newsnight exposé
HSE has responded to a joint BBC London and Newsnight investigation, which has called into question the flagship scheme for certifying builders.
Aired last night, the investigation revealed that a string of test centres had been rigging health and safety exams, throwing into question the competence of workers and potentially undermining the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, which demonstrates skills and grasp of health and safety.
Seen as a benchmark, the CSCS cards were launched by the industry in 1995 and nine of the UK’s top 10 biggest construction companies demand them before workers can enter a site.
The investigation revealed widespread, organised cheating, allowing untrained builders on to construction sites. It also revealed that a number of test centres are offering guaranteed passes for cash, enabling workers lacking English to obtain qualifications.
Responding to the BBC programme, a HSE spokesperson said that H&S legislation (CDM 2015) requires that contractors must not appoint or employ workers unless they have or are in the process of obtaining the necessary skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out the tasks in a way that secures their own and others’ safety and health.
“Card schemes in the construction industry can be used by contractors to help assess some elements of competency, such as specific training, qualification and basic health and safety awareness,” the spokesperson said.
“No card provides complete evidence of competence and additional enquiries and/or supervision are normally needed. Cards alone cannot be relied upon as a measure of competence and should not be used as a ‘passport’ onto a construction site.”
HSE adds that there is no legal requirement to posses a card and the regulator does not administer or have any remit for card schemes.
The health and safety watchdog told SHP that HSE inspectors target small construction sites (20 or fewer workers on site) and the refurbishment sector for proactive visits as this is where the injury incidence is highest and management control tends to be weakest.
“The purpose of inspection is to sample the management of common health and safety risks such as exposure to silica dust and work at height, by examining planning, the provision of plant, equipment, and protective equipment, and training and instruction,” the spokesperson said.
“Enforcement action is taken where duty holders fail to manage risks in relation to any of these areas.”
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