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Consultants face Highways Agency ban for safety failings

CONSULTANTS FAILING to take site safety seriously will be banned from future motorway and trunk road work, the Highways Agency warned last week.

From this summer consultants must be able to prove that their entire workforce holds a valid skills card issued by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). If they cannot, they will be struck off Agency tender lists.

The move is particularly targeted at consultants as many have argued that CSCS cards are irrelevant as they spend little time on site.

Since January CSCS cards have been compulsory for access to all sites run by Major Contractors Group members.

But consultants are currently able to bypass the rules by using a yellow 'occasional visitor' card.

The Agency believes that to instil an effective health and safety culture, all employees should hold permanent cards.

'Consultants tried to cop out a bit last time, ' said Agency procurement director Steve Rowsell. 'That was not a satisfactory response when we are looking for consultants to be more aware of health and safety on site.

'We do need to differentiate between consultants and contractors, but essentially we are talking CSCS cards for all, ' said Rowsell.

Rowsell announced the move during the Highways Agency day at NCE's Civils 2004 event at the NEC in Birmingham last week. He said having a fully qualified work force was one of five challenges the construction industry must face.

He also wants to see greater ethnic and sexual diversity among senior construction executives; a greater involvement of specialist skills at earlier stages of projects;

more effort to drive out waste including a greater use of prefabrication; and more efforts to recognise best practice through improved performance measurement.

Detailed plans on how and when these initiatives will be introduced will be worked up over the summer.

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