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Changes to the CSCS card scheme explained

If you’re a skilled craftsman, general labourer, or somewhere in between, you’ve probably been asked to demonstrate your competence and abilities through a CSCS card. They’re a great benchmark for clients and principal contractors to determine whether a contractor is able to carry out the work that you require. Recently, there have been changes to the CSCS card scheme, affecting the way they are issued.

The Key Changes to the CSCS Card Scheme

There have been two main changes to the CSCS card scheme, aimed at increasing the health and safety knowledge of card holders, and making the application process more stringent (attracting a higher calibre of card holder).

These are:

“Grandfather rights” have been scrapped

Applicants can no longer gain their CSCS cards via industry accreditation, or employer endorsement. Any cards gained through this method will expire in December 2024; cards of this type can only be renewed until June 2024.

Amendments to the Health and Safety test

Before you apply for your CSCS card, workers must complete and pass the CITB health and safety awareness, (HAS) course, or an approved alternative.

CITB touch screen test

There are three levels of health and safety test, in line with the general hierarchy of workers on site. These are Operatives, Specialists, and Managers & Professionals. Most construction workers will only need to fulfil the basic, entry level Operatives test.

While this may seem like an onerous and time consuming waste of effort, improving your knowledge of health and safety will keep you and those around you from coming to harm through accidents or incidents. Nothing is more important than going home safely to your loved ones at the end of each day - so it makes sense to be clued up as to how to minimise the risks of injury in the workplace.

What you need to do

These changes to the CSCS card scheme are for good reason and are designed to make the workplace safer, and do not mean the end for construction workers.

If you gained your card according to the old rules, you’ll need to re-apply. This is straight-forward for most conscientious workers - you’ll just need to prove that you're qualified to an agreed standard in line with the role you undertake (this influences the type of card to apply for).

Is the test going to be difficult?

The changes to the CSCS card scheme will no doubt provoke a manner of questions and uncertainty. You’ll be pleased to know however that the CITB Health, Safety, and Environment test is relatively straightforward, particularly if you’ve got experience of working on construction sites before. The test consists of 50 questions, and you only need to answer 45 of them correctly to pass.

The health and safety awareness test is a one day course with an exam at the end which can be either classroom based or online. This course is needed to gain a CSCS card, or an equivalent such as the site supervision safety training scheme or site managers safety training scheme course.

Why are the old cards being scrapped?

Essentially, the old CSCS cards gained through “Grandfather rights” failed to meet the objective of ensuring certification of qualifications, as perceived by the CSCS Chief Exec Graham Wren. The perception was that it was too easy to obtain a CSCS card and, therefore, start working on construction sites and lack the skills and knowledge to work safely.

The scrappage of the industry accreditation route to gaining a CSCS card means that construction workers must fulfil stricter entry requirements, raising the calibre of worker and ensuring their health and safety knowledge and credentials. While some may take a dim view of the changes to the CSCS card scheme, this step change in approach is without a doubt a positive one.

What will this mean for the industry

The changes to the CSCS card scheme essentially make sure that all construction workers have a heightened knowledge and awareness of health and safety; they’ll know how to identify potential hazards within their workplace, and how to control the risks.

This means that construction workers will enjoy safer working conditions, putting themselves and others at less risk. Lowering the likelihood of an accident or incident at work is also beneficial for clients, site managers, designers, principal contractors, employers, and anyone else with a duty under CDM. They’ll have to worry less about potential visits from the HSE, court proceedings, paying for sick leave, project delays, investigations, and reputation loss - allowing greater focus on quality and delivering the project on time.

How to get your CSCS card

While the standards for CSCS card holders have become more stringent, it’s still straightforward to obtain your card.

If you are applying for the first time, you’ll need a scanned copy of your CITB qualification certificate, or a form of proof that you are registered to complete a construction related qualification that is recognised and relevant to the work that you do. You’ll need to have the test ID number from your CITB Health, Safety, and Environment test at the ready when applying - it’s at the top of your certificate. You’ll also need a bank card in order to pay the application fee.

Existing card holders need to create an online CSCS account, then access their user area on the CSCS website. From there, you can enter your registration number and relevant personal details, linking your previous card to your new online account. At this point you can then renew your card or apply for duplicate or alternative cards.

Concluding the CSCS card change conundrum

If you speak to the majority of regular construction site workers, more often than not you’ll hear groans of apathy regarding health and safety, and the regulation which supports it. Because of this, many workers choose to start out on their own and leave busy construction sites as they believe there are less health and safety structures constraining their work (that’s a misconception and topic for another article…).

While the changes to the CSCS card scheme do present additional hoops for construction workers to jump through before they can get to work, it’s all for good reason. The changes essentially make it impossible to obtain a CSCS card without first having a sound knowledge of basic safety principles. While yes, there is a financial and time cost involved, ultimately these changes will make every construction site safer, reducing accidents and incidents, and increasing the likelihood of every worker involved going home safely every day; something we should all support.

If you have any questions regarding the changes to the CSCS card scheme that we’ve not answered, please just contact us.

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lee marsden majestic site managment
Lee Marsden MCIOB
Director at Majestic Site Management Ltd
As the managing director of Majestic Site Management. From humble beginnings as an army apprentice, Lee Marsden’s tenacious attitude and hard work paid off in 2019 when he established Majestic Site Management – a successful site management consultancy that continues to grow year-on-year.

With over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry, Lee offers more than just a helping hand to keep your project on track. Majestic Site Management also specialises in site compliance, and health and safety, with a long-list of credentials to prove it. Connect with Lee on LinkedIn >>
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