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CEDA warns of massive cost of CSCS card rule change

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CEDA is warning that catering equipment installers will have to shell out extra expense to obtain CSCS cards in future.

CEDA is warning the project engineering and installation industry that a well-intentioned decision by the Construction Leadership Council could cost the catering equipment industry many thousands of pounds.

Many catering equipment installation engineers and project managers work on construction sites and therefore require a CSCS card.

CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) cards were introduced in 1995 to verify that all workers on construction sites had sufficient knowledge to identify hazards and risks and to work safely. To obtain a card it was necessary to study a CITB produced booklet covering all aspects of health and safety on construction sites before satisfactorily completing a multiple-choice questionnaire. The cost of the health and safety booklet and test is about £30 and the CSCS card itself is £36.

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CSCS identified that there were many trades that were not directly considered to be construction but were construction related in that they were often required as part of the fitting out of a building.  These trades were classed as Construction Related Occupations (CRO). The installation of commercial catering equipment was considered to be a CRO and CSCS cards could be obtained for this purpose, however, this is no longer the case.

In 2016, the Construction Leadership Council decided that CSCS cards should in the future not only indicate a person’s competence in health and safety matters but should also confirm technical competence to do the job they were contracted to do. To confirm this they decreed that to qualify for a CSCS card it was necessary to have a relevant qualification (NVQ level 2 minimum or equivalent).

They therefore decided that the existing CRO card scheme would be discontinued and laid out a 2 year transition period as follows:

  • Existing CRO cards issued before 1 October 2015 that expired after 30 September 2017 to remain valid until their expiry date
  • CRO cards issued from 1 October 2015 to expire on 30 September 2017 and will not be renewable
  • CSCS stopped issuing CRO cards from 31 March 2017.

CEDA recognises that the decision by the Construction Leadership Council is well intentioned, however, it feels that it is both unnecessary and unwelcome for the catering equipment industry and could cost employers many thousands of pounds in obtaining qualifications that have never been necessary before. The association has argued this with both CSCS and Build UK but to no avail.

Many catering equipment installation engineers do not have any formal qualifications as they have never needed them to carry out basic plumbing and electrical work when connecting to services usually brought to within a metre by other trades. CEDA says these engineers are going to be affected by the changes and will not be able to get a CSCS card without a recognised level 2 NVQ or equivalent qualification.

CSCS had a number of partner schemes which allowed other bodies to issue CSCS cards and one of these was the Joint Industry Board for Plumbing and Mechanical Engineering Services (JIB-PMES) which also had a scheme for Plumbing Related Occupations (PRO) that included the installation of catering equipment. It was possible to get a PRO CSCS card and, unlike the CRO cards, JIB-PMES continued to issue PRO cards after 31 March 2017 deadline and will continue to do so until 29 November 2019, after which it will be necessary to hold a suitable qualification to get a JIB-PMES CSCS card.

Whilst ACS accreditations are not technically classed as a qualification, they are accepted by JIB-PMES as such and therefore engineers who have appropriate ACS accreditations and are Gas Safe registered can apply for a CSCS card through JIB-PMES.

Whilst there is an NVQ level 2 Diploma in plumbing certified by City and Guilds, intended for people with plumbing experience but no formal qualification, there is currently no suitable NVQ for the installation of commercial catering equipment.

CEDA is working with CITB to develop a new pathway for non-gas catering equipment installation engineers using an existing NVQ for Specialised Installation Occupations (Construction). This has involved the development of a new National Occupational Standard (NOS) covering the technical elements of the occupation.

This is only the first stage of the NVQ development process, once the NOS has been created, the NVQ has to be developed by a suitable awarding body such as City & Guilds. However, this then becomes a commercial decision for the awarding body and they will only develop the qualification if there is sufficient demand from the industry to give them a return on their investment.

Even if an awarding body agrees to develop the qualification, an assessment organisation has to be found to actually assess the engineer meets the requirements of the NVQ, and again this is a commercial decision for them based on numbers.

Currently many NVQ assessments are done through an online portal which enables the candidate to upload a portfolio of evidence (job sheets, risk assessments, photographs, videos etc.) to prove that they have the knowledge and experience before having an on-site assessment by a suitably qualified person. This does not require any off the job time for an experienced engineer but even so it can cost around £1,000. CEDA hopes to either negotiate a favourable price with an assessment organisation on behalf of its members or to possibly become an authorised assessment organisation.

To establish the possible demand for the NVQ, CEDA has set up an online survey to enable companies involved in installation work on construction sites to record the number of engineers who may need the NVQ. To access the survey click here.

CEDA has advised its members’ project managers to apply for the JIB-PMES Manager’s card which in addition to the CITB Managers and Professionals Health, Safety and Environmental test, requires either a suitable level 4 NVQ OR two endorsements by current or previous employers/clients to verify that the person has worked in the role of project manager for at least 12 months.

Tags : associationCEDAcertificationqualifications
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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