CSCS Cards, The Law, And Working On Construction Sites header image

8th October, 2019

CSCS Cards, The Law, And Working On Construction Sites

If you work in construction, you have probably heard of CSCS. You might have a CSCS card. Or you could have been asked to get one. As an employer, you might want your workers to get CSCS cards, or wondering if they should. As a worker, you may also be questioning if you need a CSCS card. So let's take a look at the law surrounding CSCS cards, and when you need one.

What is a CSCS card?

CSCS cards are a way of showing you have the training and qualifications you need to work on a construction site. In a similar way to how a driving license works, once you have the qualification and pass a test, you get your card. You can carry this around, and show it as evidence that you meet the standard.

CSCS cards provide proof that individuals working on construction sites have the appropriate training and qualifications for the job they do on site. By ensuring that the workforce are appropriately qualified the card plays its part in improving standards and safety on UK construction sites.

CSCS stands for the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. The test and the application process is currently run by the CITB (although this is changing in the next couple of years). To get a CSCS card, you usually need an appropriate qualification for your trade e.g. NVQ or degree etc. And you also need to pass a CITB health and safety test.

Because CSCS cards are designed to show that a person is suitably skilled for the job they do, there are different types of card available. After all, not every person does the same job on site. CSCS cards come in different colours, and for different trades. A red card if you are in training. A blue card for a skilled worker. Gold cards for supervisors and advanced trades. Black cards for managers.

The Law

We mentioned that a CSCS card is like a driving license. It is in the sense that you get a card to show you are qualified to do something, in this case, work on a site. But, a driving license is legally required to drive a car. A CSCS card is not legally required to work on a construction site.

So if a CSCS card is not required by law, then why would you need one? You have to sit a test every couple of years to get one, and it takes time and costs money. So why bother if you don't need one?

Holding a CSCS card is not a legislative requirement. It is entirely up to the principal contractor or client whether workers are required to hold a card before they are allowed on site. However, most principal contractors and major house builders require construction workers on their sites to hold a valid card.

Well, just because the CSCS card itself isn't a legal requirement, doesn't mean that just anyone can work on a construction site. You do need to have the skills and experience to work safely on site. And that is a legal requirement.

(7) A contractor must not employ or appoint a person to work on a construction site unless that person has, or is in the process of obtaining, the necessary skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out the tasks allocated to that person in a manner that secures the health and safety of any person working on the construction site.

A CSCS card is just one way of demonstrating that a worker has at least basic health and safety knowledge, and certain qualifications. It can form part of the checks made to make sure that the people on site meet this legal requirement.

Find out more about CDM in The CDM Regulations Summary (and the 10 Golden Rules).

construction workers
A CSCS card is one way of checking qualifications and basic safety knowledge

CSCS cards help prove you have certain qualifications but don't take into account the experience of the worker. They also don't recognise every qualification. So they don't entirely remove the need to check someone out thoroughly before they start work on site. But they do help tick the skills, knowledge and training boxes.

Do you need a CSCS card?

Sometimes.

As we have already discovered, you don't need a CSCS card by law. But workers on constructions sites do need the necessary skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out their job. And that is a legal requirement.

Having a CSCS card doesn't automatically mean a person will work safely. Or that they are good at their job. But it can be one way of checking that they have appropriate training and qualifications.

For this reason, many larger contractors and clients require CSCS cards for working on their sites. And, if it's required by the people in charge of the site, then you have to have one. Like a job application, if they require a certain qualification for that job, then you need to have it. Even if you have an alternative qualification, or are just as good. If you don't have the required certificate (or in this case, card), you're not getting in.

construction site
Some construction sites require CSCS

But for other reasons, some contractors and clients don't require CSCS cards. They carry out their own assessment or have their own ticketing system for example. This can be to the same, or an even higher standard.

Remember, everyone on site, CSCS card or not, needs a construction site induction and suitable supervision on site.

Construction Workers

Construction workers are the only people that would need, or be suitable for, a CSCS card. If you carry out work, or manage work, on a construction site, you might need to consider getting one. Not because they are a legal requirement, but because they are often a contractual requirement. The card will also help demonstrate that you are qualified and understand basic health and safety requirements.

None Construction Workers

In the past, CSCS has produced cards for site visitors and none construction occupations. This meant everyone on site could have a card. However, more recently, the CSCS have recognised that this is an unnecessary burden. They have withdrawn the construction site visitors card and state that CSCS cards are intended for construction related occupations only.


CSCS cards can be part of your health and safety management, and vetting construction workers on your site. Whether you require them or not, you can use our free CDM compliance checklist to help you keep your site safe and comply with the law.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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