SKILLS CARDS issued by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and championed by the Highways Agency are not relevant or appropriate for designers, the ICE warned this week.
The cards are insufficient to demonstrate competence on health and safety issues, the ICE health and safety board said, as tests to obtain them do not go into enough depth to judge a design engineer's abilities to perform on site.
'The CSCS card test can only be considered as a basic requirement, ' said ICE health and safety board member Douglas McBeth, accepting that designers and design staff visiting site must be aware of health and safety issues. He added: '[The card] does not demonstrate a designer is competent in safety issues.'
CSCS cards have been compulsory since January to access sites run by Major Contractors Group members. Consultants bypass the rules by using the yellow 'occasional visitor card'.
The ICE's statement came in response to the Highways Agency's recent decision to toughen its stance towards consultants by enforcing a zero tolerance approach (NCE 6 May).
From this summer consultants must be able to prove their entire workforce holds valid CSCS skills cards, or risk being struck off Agency tender lists.
But the ICE board disagreed with the Agency's policy. 'We must question if this is relevant or appropriate, ' it said, urging the Agency instead to recognise the ICE's own Health & Safety Register for construction professionals.
This system requires a written test and interview and, the ICE claims, is 'the standard to which all engineers should aspire'.