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Written by
on 15 July 2020

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In a health and safety conscious world, site managers and potential employers want to know the person they are hiring is trained and competent. One of the easiest and most effective ways of proving that you know what you are doing is with a CSCS card.

In this blog, we will answer some frequently asked questions about CSCS cards, and help you figure out whether you need one, and which card is best for you.

What is a CSCS card?

CSCS cards were introduced in 1995 as a way for contractors and tradesmen to show that they are qualified to carry out work, introducing a standard level of safety across the construction industry.

CSCS cards are issued by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, and although they are not a legal requirement, many potential employers do insist contractors have them. Cards will generally identify the worker, their level of skill, and relevant qualifications.

Why do I need a CSCS card?

As mentioned above, CSCS cards are not legally required. There is no rule in the Health and Safety guidelines which states you need one to work on construction sites.

However, safety legislation, such as the Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) regulations, do state that those employing contractors or hiring employees must ensure that the people they hire are competent. As such, many employers will require you to have a CSCS card – or an equivalent – to prove that you are trained and qualified.

It is also worth keeping in mind that the major members of the UK Contractors Group (UKCG) have agreed to make CSCS cards compulsory for contractors on their sites.

By getting a CSCS card, you are making it simple for potential employers to guarantee that you are competent, and expanding your pool of available work; not to mention the size of the projects you can undertake.

What CSCS card do I need for my job?

There are 13 different levels of CSCS card in six different colours, depending on skill level.

For entry-level workers, the most common colours are red and green. These generally indicate a standard qualification such as an NVQ, and that the person has completed the required CSCS test.

Colours then move up in order of seniority: blue, gold, and then black. Those who are academically or professionally qualified, such as those who hold a degree, HND, HNC, CIOB Certificate or NEBOSH diploma in a construction-related subject, may hold a white CSCS card. Previously, site visitors were sometimes issued with a yellow CSCS card, but this has now been withdrawn.

The colour and type of card you hold depend on your skills and experience, rather than your particular profession.

‘Labourer’ card

The green ‘labourer’ card, for example, can be issued to someone who is starting out on a construction-related career path, whether they are a plumber, electrician, or plasterer. To get one of these cards, you will need to complete a QCF Level 1 or SCQF Level 4 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment, or a SCQF Level 5 REHIS Elementary Health and Safety Certificate.

‘Apprentice’ card

Alternatively, if you are on a registered apprenticeship scheme, you could apply for a red ‘apprentice’ card, allowing you to get hands-on site experience. To qualify, you need:

  • A letter from your apprenticeship management agency
  • A letter from your apprenticeship training provider
  • Your apprenticeship agreement

You may also be exempt from taking the CSCS test when applying for a red ‘apprentice’ card if you can show:

  • Confirmation from your management agency which states you have met their Health and Safety standards
  • A Health and Safety course certificate, or evidence that your training included a Health and Safety course

‘Trainee’

A red ‘trainee’ card is another possibility for entry-level workers. This card shows you are enrolled on a relevant course to achieve the necessary qualifications, but that you are aware of the necessary rules and regulations, having passed the essential health and safety knowledge test.

‘Skilled worker’ and ‘advanced craft’ cards

Once you have completed the relevant training in your area, you can progress to a blue ‘skilled worker’ card or a gold ‘advanced craft’ card.

Blue ‘skilled worker’ cards are also issued to those who have completed a relevant construction-related qualification, such as an NVQ, or SVQ Level 2. Gold ‘advanced craft’ cards are reserved for those who have completed NVQ/SVQ Level qualifications in a construction-related area, or an Approved Indentured Apprenticeship.

CSCS cards for managers and supervisors

There are supervisor and manager specific CSCS cards for those who progress into those roles, but for the most part, these cards are the most common and will usually suffice to carry out work.

Can I get a CSCS card without an NVQ/SVQ?

Absolutely. The green ‘labourer’ card does not require an NVQ, the only completion of a Health, Safety and Environment test, and a QCF Level 1 Award or equivalent in construction. You would only need an NVQ/SVQ to progress to a blue ‘skilled worker’ card, which would allow you to illustrate that you have met the legal requirements and are qualified to practice your specific trade.

If you have an alternative academic, construction-related qualification, you can apply for a white ‘academically qualified person’ card or AQP CSCS. These can include degrees, HNDs, and HNCs, and the CSCS has a full list of accepted qualifications on their site.

The AQP CSCS card was specifically introduced after it was highlighted that the CSCS favoured NVQs over other, relevant qualifications. As long as you can provide an accepted qualification certificate, and have completed the CITB Managers and Professionals Health, Safety and Environment Test in the last two years, you are eligible for an AQP.

Though NVQs remains one of the most popular routes to a CSCS card, there are alternatives, providing other ways to demonstrate knowledge, experience, and competency.

Do I need a CSCS card if I’m self-employed?

As we’ve already discussed, with CSCS cards not being a legislative requirement, you do not need one to work, self-employed or not. However, not having one can put you at a disadvantage with a potential employer who requires proof of competency, more so if you are self-employed.

Contractors can generally provide training certificates and other proof of competency for their employees, which can provide peace of mind – and legal security – to site managers and employers. If you are self-employed, the onus is on you to prove that you are competent. A CSCS card can be one of the most straightforward ways of doing so and is worth considering.

If you are not already active in the industry, you may find it difficult or even impossible to break in without a CSCS card.

Can you get a CSCS card online?

Yes, you can. At Veritas Consulting we have over 10 years of experience helping contractors get their CSCS cards, and can provide cards via our website for just £45.00. Simply fill out our straightforward CSCS card application to start the process.

By getting your CSCS card through us, you will gain access to over 350 test centres nationwide, and get your card within 10 days in most cases. CSCS tests can be booked through us, and we aim to make the entire process simple, easy, and cost-effective with our combined CSCS tests and card package.

We can also provide test support and Health and Safety advice via our extensive knowledge of the construction industry.

For more information or to book your test and order your card, visit our CSCS Test page. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 1488 677, or use our contact form above.

Now in his second decade as a chartered health and safety consultant, David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. When David is not helping clients with his unique mix of knowledge and experience, he enjoys being a good dad, a good partner and prefers drinking wine to beer. Known to be good with compliance and a corkscrew. You can get in touch on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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