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Contractors disregard H&S registration cards

Health and safety concerns are being ignored by some major contractors who are allowing workers on site without a valid registration card.


Head of Employment Affairs at HVCA Peter Rimmer said some contractors were not making sure workers were carrying an up-to-date Engineering Services SKILLcard.


SKILLcards were introduced in 2001 to raise health and safety awareness and prove competence amongst workers. There are currently 67,000 card holders.


Mr Rimmer declined to name individual companies, but said: “While it is gratifying that some clients are taking health and safety seriously by insisting that contractors’ employees carry their SKILLcard with them at all times while on site, there is also regrettably evidence that some main contractors are content to allow workers on site without a card, simply on the basis of showing a piece of paper that confirms they have booked their test.”


The Major Contractors’ Group (MCG) – made up of the 12 biggest contractors in the UK - insisted this week it was still committed to the cards. A spokesman said: “MCG continues to audit twice a year and has adopted a zero tolerance to no cards.”


Concerns over safety have been raised due to a sharp rise in construction deaths. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the number of fatalities rose by 28 per cent to 77 in 2006/2007 – with just under half in “skilled trades”.


Refurbishment and new building has been identified as a particular target area by the HSE and this week it launched the Shattered Lives campaign to highlight the threat of falls at work sites.


Mr Rimmer said 100 per cent compliance remained a target: “We should not lose sight of the fact that more than 60,000 people in the HVCAR sector have had to satisfy basic health and safety awareness requirements in order to get their SKILLcard.


“That means there are 60,000 people in our sector who now have this important health and safety knowledge, who may not have had to meet this standard several years ago, before SKILLcard was introduced.”


The latest scheme audit showed 12 per cent of people on sites were not carrying valid cards.


The audit was carried out in October by HVCA and the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) Joint Major Contractors’ Group  – featuring the 16 largest m&e contractors.


It shows there is a high take-up although the number of people with cards has only risen by 1 per cent since the 2006 audit.


Checks on 16,000 people on sites around the country found 87 per cent were able to produce a valid SKILLcard or Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) – which are both affiliated with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). This means close to 2,000 were unable to produce a card.


The best performance was amongst directly-employed workers at 88 per cent while 86 per cent of sub contractors and 85 per cent of agency labour had valid cards.


Mr Rimmer said: “The results underline the extent to which the management and workforce of JMCG member companies have come to recognise the importance of the sector’s personnel registration schemes.”