Construction workers across the UK are required to hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card which provides “proof” that individuals working on construction sites have the required training and qualifications for the type of work they carry out. These cards are seen as an industry benchmark. It was therefore of concern to read of a joint BBC London/Newsnight investigation that revealed widespread, organised cheating at Test Centres offering these qualifications, which potentially allow untrained builders onto building sites. Test Centres were caught on camera rigging exams.
The exposé revealed that three London companies had taken cash in exchange for the qualifications, including an invigilator who completed a test for an undercover reporter at a centre accredited by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). In addition, a CSCS card acquired with fraudulent qualifications was used by the BBC to get offers of work at building sites, a school and a power station.
The BBC report highlights the fact that construction is the UK’s most dangerous employment sector with more construction workers being killed than members of the armed forces during the Afghanistan war. According to HSE statistics, for the past 5 years alone, 217 workers died. The worker fatal injury rate in the construction sector is over 3.5 times the average rate across all industries. Provisional figures show over 5,400 reported non-fatal injuries to employees in the Construction sector in 2014/15.
These are worrying statistics and more so in light of the BBC exposé. The high number of accidents in the Construction industry has long been a concern. In 2009 Rita Donaghy CBE and former chair of Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, was asked to prepare a report on how to improve the appalling health and safety records in the Construction industry for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Her report entitled “One death too many” recommended key changes be made to the construction industry. It is to be noted that her report mentioned concerns about the fraudulent use of the CSCS cards and their application e.g. a basic card could be used by someone undertaking a task requiring considerable skill. Given that it is 6 years since the report was published nothing appears to have changed. It looks like health and safety in the Construction industry still has a long way to go, given this recent exposé.
Gary Boyd, Partner, Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd