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Play your cards right

Working lives Safety regime changes

Until now designers have been able to dodge the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. But now they have to become CSCS card holders.

Designers are health and safety conscious.

With the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations to worry about, of course they are. Or are they?

From today designers, managers and supervisors will have to prove it through the contractor-backed Construction Skills Certification Scheme. They will not be allowed onto a construction site without a CSCS card.

There have been moans and groans of annoyance from engineers, particularly in the consulting sector. Surely years of education and the experience needed to qualify as an engineer should be enough to satisfy all the site safety responsibilities they are likely to be charged with?

Until now consultants have been exempted from the CSCS under a 'grandfather rights' recognition agreement with the major contracting firms.

But today grandfather rights expired. Everyone on site will have to bear a card showing they understand the health and safety issues specific to their role - from plant operator to site and contract manager levels.

For those on site in the most responsible positions, gaining a card will require NVQ level five - 'the equivalent of a degree' - says ICE professional development manager Niall O'Hea.

There is the aggravation of extra study and lost working time to deal with. Sitting CSCS tests also holds a sobering threat: 'Even though 80% of the test should be common sense and general practice, 10% of managers to date have failed it, ' says O'Hea.

To take account of changing industry practices, re-testing every three years is compulsory.

While the ICE backs the principle that improving construction industry skills and safety culture involves leading from the top, the end of grandfather rights has provoked a flurry of negotiations. The Institution has established its own industrial accreditation and route to attaining CSCS certification as an alternative to the tests that must be undertaken by non-members.

Under professional accreditation, chartered engineers will be eligible for CSCS cards up to a certain level - 'for around 65% of engineers the demise of grandfather rights will make no real difference', O'Hea says.

Industrial accreditation can be used by the outstanding 35% of engineers to overcome the CSCS card hurdle. This will require them to have their health and safety competence signed off by their employer, but will be painless compared to undertaking NVQ training.

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