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CSCS is not about competence…

Published: December 8, 2014

In the past many schemes, CSCS included, have been promoted as ‘Competency’ card schemes i.e. possession of a card automatically signifies the cardholder is competent to carry out a given task or job. Furthermore the industry has been keen to embrace this concept with cursory inspection of the card before individuals are allowed to work on site.

Most cards do not currently record certain information that assists a Supervisor or Manager in determining an individual’s competence, such as physical fitness, work experience and behavioural attributes, yet production of a card is relied upon as proof of competence. This is clearly a dangerous assumption.

Clients often unwittingly reinforce this assumption by requiring their Contractors to demonstrate the workforce is fully ‘carded’. This is often a requirement of Prequalification documents. However through research we know that, while the workforce may be 100% carded, approximately 40% of them carry the wrong card for the job they do. Holding the wrong card makes it difficult for contractors to reliably check site workers’ qualifications and training.

Furthermore, many mandates from company head offices and Health and Safety Directors requiring the whole workforce be carded has resulted in many off site employees being forced to obtain a card. For example we know of head office receptionists who have never set foot on a construction site, being required to sit the Health, Safety and Environment test to obtain a CSCS card. This indicates a complete misunderstanding of the card scheme’s primary purpose.

The move away from a 100% carded workforce to a 100% qualified workforce will result in some individuals turning up to site without a card. These will generally be occasional visitors required to fulfil a certain function, such as restocking vending machines, hanging pictures, delivering furniture, who have no construction related qualifications and do not qualify for a Construction Related Occupation (CRO) card. Cards will not be issued to these individuals in the future and it will be for Supervisors and Managers to assess the risks to the individual and properly induct and escort them where appropriate in order that they can carry out their work safely on site.

On this basis card schemes can then be viewed as a valuable tool, issued to those working on construction sites on a regular basis and providing information on the cardholder that, in conjunction with any other knowledge about the person such as work experience, in-house training, behaviour and health, assists the Supervisor or Manager to judge the individual’s competence to carry out their work. For the future we believe the aim of all card schemes should be to expand the information accessed by the card in order to make these judgements easier for the Supervisor or Manager. Such additional information could include all accredited and unaccredited training, such as that given in-house, fitness to work and basic employment history.  Using up to date technology embedded in the card can speed up the card checking process and provide access to a greater volume of data.