ONLY half the number of road workers who must be registered under the New Roads and Streetworks Act have so far signed up, with just over six months left until the deadline.
Contractors are holding back from training their gangs working on street utilities because they fear the outbreak of a poaching war among rivals offering premium rates to qualified workers.
But by August 5 the law requires them to have at least one qualified supervisor and worker on every digging job. Firms that do not comply risk fines of up to 1,000.
The 1991 New Roads and Streetworks Act set a training deadline of August 1994 for site supervisors to be registered. Workers were given an extra three years until August 1997 to
But so far only 20,960 operatives have signed up, compared with 27,540 supervisors.
Now the Scottish Vocational Education Council, which runs the register, is bracing itself for a last-minute stampede.
Spokesman Tom Walker said: There are obviously more operatives than supervisors, but a lot of contractors seem to be hanging on until the last minute.
He added: We are expecting a rush of operatives to come through in the near future.
According to the National Joint Utilities Group, less than half the estimated number of operatives who will need to be registered have qualified.
John Knight, safety and loss manager at contractor McNicholas, said: There is a certain amount of apathy in the industry about the policing of the new rules after the experience of the supervisors.
There are supervisors who do not have the accreditation they should have working for contractors.
And, although clients may ask for information [about accreditation] when submitting a tender, it isnt necessarily followed up.
Training firms also expect a last-minute rush for places on courses, which can cost between 400 and 600 a person.
They predict that the costs will rise as demand picks up.
Steve Dyson, streetworks business manager with training firm WTi, said: Many contractors think that training their people too early just gives their employees a ticket to roam.
Theres no loyalty where money is concerned. Theyll just up and walk. Come August, the people that are registered will be worth a lot of money.
He added: People will inevitably cash in on this and a lot of small and family firms will be hit.