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