THE TWO biggest operator card schemes in the UK have fallen out over how to measure competence.
The National Plant Operators Scheme has accused the larger CPCS of fasttracking operators without properly assessing their competence following the ending of its affiliation with the CPCS last week.
The two jointly offered CPCS cards, but NPORS withdrew when it was told it could not sell its own cards to construction customers as well.
But now NPORS has gone on the offensive and said that its own card will offer contractors a more accurate record of an operator's plant experience, as well as training that is equal to the NVQ standard.
The card requires less time to complete and is cheaper than the CPCS but currently the Major Contractors Group does not officially endorse it. Insiders said that this has led to confusion. Some operators took the NPORS card but were tu rned away f rom MCG sites.
But Paul Daniels, procedures manager for NPORS, said that the card was accepted at a site level by many MCG members.
He added: 'The CPCS has hoodwinked the MCG into believing that it is the only route but the industry needs guys on site and once site managers see that we can vouch that they are capable of doing the job, they are happy.
'The final decision has always rested with the site managers and there are already a number of pockets across the country, such as Scotland, where NPORS is accepted by the MCG.'
He said the NPORS card more accurately ref lected the operator's training.
He said: 'CPCS has very broad categories, whereas we can reflect what equipment the operator is trained on, such as a 10 -tonne dumper.'
NPORS also said that offering a shorter course enables contractors to get operators onsite more quickly than CPCS, thus filling skills shortages.
Its chief executive Stan Chapman said: 'Although industry wants a qualified workforce, it needs trained personnel on sites today, so CPCS is working against the wishes of the construction industry.'
But the Major Contractors Group warned that the official position is still that the standard NPORS card should not be accepted on its sites.
MCG health and safety implementation manager John Bradshaw said: 'While it would be a decision for our members to endorse another card, and we have not yet been approached, it is not good for the industry to have lots of cards. It goes against the spirit of the hard work we have been doing over the past five years to reduce them.'
NPORS also maintains that the CPCS has not done enough to reinforce competence among its cardholders, whereas its own scheme maps training against the NVQ standard.
Mr Daniels said: 'They have 180,000 cardholders and have only issued 1,000 NVQs. There are many CPCS cardholders who have never been tested, let alone received an NVQ.'
CPCS chairman Trevor Gamble denied the charges. He said: 'I respect their decision to leave the scheme, but what they are saying is simply not factually correct.
'All our new cardholders have to work towards NVQs but it would not be practical to have the 180,000 existing blue card holders having to work through NVQ too.'
Both unions and hirers have backed the CPCS. Kevin Williamson of TGWU said: 'We strongly endorse the scheme.
It is vital that all construction workers are aware of the MCG decision and work towards the right standard, which is accepted across virtually all sites.'