UPDATED New scaffolding card scheme threatens safety, Unite warns

Unite, the UK’s largest construction union, has warned that a proposed new scaffolding card scheme will decrease standards and lead to scaffolders having different skills cards for different projects.

Unite claimed that it has been informed by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) that it is in the process of developing a new scaffolding card scheme. The ECITB’s decision is as a result of pressure from several offshore fabric maintenance companies and is being supported by the Scaffolding Association and the Offshore Construction Association, Unite said.

However, the ECITB was denied there is any new scheme in the pipeline.

The alleged proposed scheme will directly compete with the established scaffolding registration scheme the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS).

The ECITB breakaway scheme appears to be a direct result of the CISRS scheme introducing, from 1 July 2017, a compulsory two day continuing professional development course (CPD) which all scaffolders will have to undertake in order to have their card renewed. The CPD course was introduced following pressure from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who criticised the scaffolding industry. The HSE asked CISRS to intervene regarding ongoing CPD updates, as it expressed concern that the scaffold industry was not ensuring the ongoing competency of scaffolders.

Unite said that it is organising a meeting of its senior stewards in scaffolding for later this month. The meeting will decide on a plan of action to oppose the creation of the new rogue scaffolding card scheme.

Unite national officer for construction Bernard McAulay said, “The proposal to introduce a rogue scaffolding scheme is bad news for workers. It will affect standards and create confusion on sites. With workers regularly moving between sites it is also likely to hit them in their pockets as they will be forced to purchase two different cards, to ensure they are able to accept job offers.

“The creation of a new card is not about improving standards and has everything to do with a few employers, principally those working offshore, wanting to avoid paying scaffolders for the training they need to ensure they remain fully competent in the work they do.

“Our members are not going to accept this attack on their skills and their pay packets. The employers behind these proposals are being placed on notice that these proposals are entirely unacceptable.

“Scaffolding is one of the most safety critical roles in the construction industry and we should be ensuring that standards are being pushed up, rather than watered down.

“In recent years there has been a great deal of effort in reducing the number of construction card schemes, in order to improve standards and to avoid confusion and it now appears that the ECITB is prepared to chuck that good work out of the window to appease a few penny pinching employers.”

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