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Skills passport lifts professional profile

Agenda

BAA's drive to use a competent construction force is gathering pace. From March one of its Gatwick projects will test a skills passport system for every single person who is working on the site, from chainman to project manager.

It is about time that the major contractors took a good, hard look at the qualifications of their employees. It is somewhat unfair for the O'Rourkes of this world to have all their chippies and fixers working towards an NVQ Level 2, if the site agent has won his training through the school of hard knocks.

BAA's trial only applies to those working on the site - which is probably just as well if you consider the career paths of many bosses who may well have come up from the tools.

But BAA may start to apply the same system to the rest of the professional team - architects, designers, cost consultants.

This is good news for an industry looking to raise its professional profile.

And if it means that these team members are forced to have regular health and safety training to keep their passports, it can only be good news for the people on site.

Cost outweighs the risk

A BELT-and-braces approach to dealing with any safety issue is always tempting.

But the big question is whether it's practical. In the case of Friends of the Earth's call for independent testing of decontaminated land, the cost seems to outweigh the risk.

Green campaigners are worried about legislation due to be enforced in April.

Under this developers and consultants will have to agree levels of contamination with local authorities that are fit-for the use of the site. This will help to sweep aside the long and complex process of identifying and getting permission to treat contaminated land.

But the green call for secondary independent testing would cost a fortune.

If there is cause for concern, it is whether local authorities have enough skilled people to cope with the complexities of risk assessment.