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The Proposed CISRS Card Renewal Scheme

14th June 2016

In response to social media feedback on the forthcoming CPD scheme for Scaffolders, we thought it appropriate to issue a single formal response, rather than attempt to respond to individual messages, which are far too numerous for us to do so accurately.

CPD is by no means a new concept and many thousands of people in the UK are currently required to undertake it as part of membership of professional institutions. Scaffolding is unquestionably a high-risk activity and the industry follows the lead of other high-risk trades including, rope access, gas, powered access, rail, plant operation and demolition (to name but a few) in introducing a renewal element to their competence scheme.

The issue of CPD in the scaffolding industry was first raised by the Health and Safety Executive a number of years ago, following several high-profile scaffolding incidents in which a lack of operative knowledge was deemed to be a contributory factor. These incidents included one in Yorkshire where a scaffold collapsed into the children’s play area of a childminder’s back garden. In the time since, the HSE have continued to press for the CISRS to implement a CPD element to their competence scheme.


As it stands, there are many Scaffolders in the UK that achieved their cards through means other than approved training (i.e. assessed route and Grandfather rights) and many more that achieved their qualification before key standards such as the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and BSEN 12811 were introduced. Worryingly, it’s not uncommon for us to encounter Scaffolders on the sites we visit who have little or no knowledge of TG20 or SG4 or even statutory inspection requirements for scaffolding. In reality, employers SHOULD be providing all of this critical safety information, but it’s a sad and frustrating fact that some don’t.

The HSE’s definition of competence is ‘the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone’s competence.’ This definition is widely adopted and accepted by UK industry.

It is uncommon for UK law to specify competence requirements for a particular trade, but the Work at Height Regulations (Schedule 3, Part 2 (12), does just this for scaffolding. The Regulations state:

Scaffolding may be assembled, dismantled or significantly altered only under the supervision of a competent person and by persons who have received appropriate and specific training in the operations envisaged which addresses specific risks which the operations may entail and precautions to be taken, and more particularly in:

(a) understanding of the plan for the assembly, dismantling or alteration of the scaffolding concerned;
(b) safety during the assembly, dismantling or alteration of the scaffolding concerned;
(c) measures to prevent the risk of persons, materials or objects falling;
(d) safety measures in the event of changing weather conditions which could adversely affect the safety of the scaffolding concerned;
(e) permissible loadings;
(f) any other risks which the assembly, dismantling or alteration of the scaffolding may entail.

It is entirely possible that a Scaffolder who achieved his card through Grandfather rights, or attended a training centre prior to the introduction of current standards and perhaps one who works for an employer who fails to provide training, (as was the case in the Yorkshire collapse incident!) does not meet these requirements.

When considering the specific requirements of the Regulations for Scaffolder competence, it is plainly evident that Scaffolders must be trained for their work. Therefore, it is the intention of the scheme to plug any gaps in the knowledge of individuals and to ensure that they are fully aware of the current standards that are applicable to their activities.

Whilst the Grandfather rights and assessed route schemes of the past were deemed to be very appropriate at the time they were introduced, the Work at Height Regulations bring about additional requirements in terms of competence and consequently, the HSE and other stakeholders are keen to ensure that training is current and consistently applied to all. From a health and safety perspective, it would be very difficult to argue against the fact that the principles behind the new requirement are soundly based and that they will bring closer compliance with legal requirements and improve currency of knowledge for those attending training.

Of course, when a scheme like this is introduced, there will always be accusations that it’s just another way for CISRS and the training centres to make money, but that’s absolutely not the case – the sole aim is to ensure that all in the industry are aware of the standards that apply, as required by law!

At this stage, we are unaware of what the cost per head will be, but if the finalised CPD course is of two-days duration, then it’s likely that it will cost significantly less per day over a five-year renewal cycle than a daily newspaper. It is also worth remembering that the course will likely attract CITB grant assistance for levy paying employers.

Simian clients requiring additional advice are free to contact their Account Manager on 0345 602 2418.