CSCS has announced it will overhaul its health and safety green card with a new vocational qualification to make the system more robust.
From July 2014, construction workers applying for an entry level green card will have to complete a Level 1 vocational qualification, Health and Safety for Construction Labourers, which involves 40 hours of learning.
CSCS admitted the cost for employers to train and assess workers new to the industry would increase, but added that they would be eligible for grants through the CITB and the government’s Employer Ownership Scheme.
Green cards are intended for labourers who carry out basic site skills. Currently, workers need only to pass the CITB’s multiple choice health, safety and environment test and have a reference from their employer to get one.
“We need to get back to the principle of 100 per cent competent and qualified, not 100 per cent carded”
Graham Wren, CSCS
The new qualification aims to make the awarding system more robust and ensure those working on site are adequately trained for the jobs they do.
CSCS chief executive Graham Wren said the current green card “is not a measure of competence or a qualified workforce”.
He added that many of the 600,000 holders of green cards in the UK are holding the wrong card for the job that they do.
New academic cards
CSCS has recognised additional qualifications from 30 September 2013, including HNC, HND, degrees, NEBOSH Construction Certificates and National Diplomas and CIOB Certificates.
Those with these academic qualifications will be eligible to hold a CSCS Academically Qualified Person card while they gain vocational qualifications or membership of a recognised professional body.
Mr Wren said CSCS is “plugging the gap” of academic qualifications that have not traditionally been recognised by the vocational card scheme and that he expects a “realignment” as people apply for the right cards for the job they do.
The misuse of green cards dates back to the construction health and safety summit in 2001, when deputy prime minister challenged the industry to improve its safety record, he said.
“Industry then aimed to have a 100 per cent carded workforce,” Mr Wren said. “To get a carded workforce quickly, what CSCS did was launch the green card, which was an easy card to get because all you needed was an employer reference and a health and safety test.
“We need to get back to the principle of 100 per cent competent and qualified, not 100 per cent carded. It is reversing what we did.”
Commenting on the Construction 2025 industrial strategy’s objective to identify one card scheme that will be used throughout public sector procurement, Mr Wren said he is quietly confident CSCS would be the chosen card provider.
“CSCS is the biggest card scheme and what we hope is that the government and industry get behind our scheme. Everyone is confused [over the number of different card providers and what they mean] – it’s important to get behind a scheme and unify all schemes,” he added.
Mr Wren said there are “dozens” of different certification schemes for the construction industry. CSCS has 1.8m cardholders, meanwhile the second-largest scheme CPCS, which is owned by the CITB and recognises compentency for plant operators, has 280,000 cardholders.
CSCS has a number of industry stakeholders, including CECA, FMB, NSCC, UKCG and the Unite, UCATT and GMB unions, and is administered under contract by the CITB, giving it widespread industry support.
“CSCS is the biggest card scheme and what we hope is that the government and industry get behind our scheme”
Graham Wren, CSCS
There will be two elements to the cost of the new green card: the training cost, which will depend on how much training an individual requires, and the assessment cost, which will be £25 to £50 per person.
It currently costs £47.50 to get a green card, including an assessment fee and administration fee for the card itself.
Mr Wren said those already working in the industry and renewing their green card may not need any additional training, or may only require some top-up training ahead of sitting the test.
Green cards must be renewed every five years, meaning the new system will be fully implemented by 2019.
The new Health and Safety for Construction Labourers qualification follows the recommendations set out in the Health and Safety Executive’s A commentary on routes to competence in the construction sector by Pye Tait Consulting in 2011.
It can be delivered on the job, in a classroom or on a one-to-one basis and three awarding bodies – Cskills, City & Guilds and Edexcel – are developing proposals to provide the training and assessment.
CSCS will run a pilot of the new assessment and awarding system between November 2013 and January 2014, before it takes effect next July.