Construction workers put to test in safety overhaul

The construction industry is cracking down on workers whose health and
safety knowledge is not up to scratch in a bid to improve its absenteeism
record.

From April, newly trained workers in operational roles, such as scaffolders,
bricklayers, roofers and plant operators, will have to pass a health and safety
test to get a skills card – proof they are trained to do their jobs.

The 500,000 existing card-holders will have to pass the test, which they can
take at any driver theory test centre, to renew them.

In the past, attending a course approved by the Construction Industry
Training Board was enough to secure a card.

"This will give us a genuine measure of the level of health and safety
awareness in construction so we can see where we are failing and where we need
to concentrate resources," said Keith Aldis, training director at The
Construction Confederation.

"The test will also drive up the amount of training people get, in the
sense that you don’t take a driving test unless you have had enough
lessons."

Louis Parperis, head of HR at Costain, said he had seen enough people
falling asleep in health and safety inductions to welcome the news. But he
added that the real challenge was to get people to put what they have learnt
into practice. "People are always tempted to cut corners, particularly in
an industry where you have a lot of subcontractors."

A third of all accidents reported to The Health and Safety Executive are in
construction. Loss of work through ill-health costs the sector £180m a year.

By Dominique Hammond

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