Skills card and registration requirements for suppliers
We require our suppliers to employ fully qualified and registered operatives, whose registration/skills cards show the status and categories of work that they're competent to do.
Registration and skills cards are issued by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) or an affiliate partner scheme.
A partner scheme can include those within a National Highway Sector Scheme (NHSS) such as the Fencing Industry Skills Scheme (FISS) and the Land-based Industry Skills Scheme (LISS). Partnership cards will also include the CSCS logo or mark. Cards may be physical, e-cards or virtual cards - the latter two will need suitable equipment to read the information on them.
We usually require contractors and sub-contractors to be registered to a relevant NHSS. Our contractors are represented on NHSS committees through their membership of a trade association. Their representatives provide information on best industry practice including identifying the minimum competencies, skill sets, qualifications and training requirements expected of workers. This provides the basic industry standard that is acceptable to us and other overseeing organisations.
We accept CSCS cards that are included in an NHSS. However, NHSSs often include additional minimum requirements beyond CSCS registration, such as refresher training. CSCS-registered operatives also need to comply with these requirements.
Please note that despite the similarity in names, NHSSs are not part of National Highways and are not managed by us.
If you win a National Highways contract and work is specified in accordance with the Specification for Highway Works (SHW), you'll need to register with an NHSS for specific areas of work.
NHSS is a partnership between industry, highway authorities, certification industry, training/competency bodies and others such as the Health & Safety Executive and UKAS. NHSSs are management schemes that focus on quality as an objective and are recognised as the industry standard complementing ISO Management Standards. Among other things, they set minimum qualifications and training standards that you need for workers.
Registration and skills cards for workers on the National Highways network are issued by CSCS or by a CSCS partnership scheme (see introduction above).
You should recognise that a CSCS card can include multiple skills and occupations, whereas a partnership card may only relate to a specific industry occupation, for example, the Lantra partnership card for temporary traffic management.
The adoption of the CSCS card by BuildUK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and endorsement by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has significantly increased the uptake of skills cards. Several existing card schemes are affiliated or affiliating to the CSCS, but until individual cards are due for renewal, some unaffiliated existing cards may continue to be valid until they're renewed. Find out about partnership schemes here.
The various accreditations and certifications include:
- NHSS registration - this is usually required for managing agent contracts and large contracts
- health and safety assessment certification - this is usually required for managing agent contracts and large contracts
Registration to an NHSS
To achieve registration to an NHSS, you need to:
- download the current Sector Scheme Document for the industry you require approval for - find the NHSS list on the schedule of suppliers website
- contact an NHSS-accredited certification body to arrange an audit – find the list of NHSS accredited certification bodies on the UKAS website
After a successful audit, your organisation will receive a certificate of registration/approval for your scope(s) of work. This will qualify you to work on National Highways roads or any contracts requiring sector scheme registration/approval.
Accepted skills card schemes
ACAD Helpline on Tel 01325 466 704
Find information on ACAD on the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association website.
BASIS (Registration) Limited Enquiry Line on Tel 01335 343 945
Find information on the BACCS on the BASIS website.
Corrodere Helpline 01252 732 236; Freephone 0808 275 3030
Find out about the Corredere Academy training.
Checking workers’ skills cards
Suppliers registered to NHSS quality management schemes require workers to carry skills cards (or equivalent smart cards, e-cards or virtual cards) while working on our network. This means that suppliers are responsible for checking that:
- workers carrying out specific duties hold appropriate registration/skills cards (each card carries a photograph of the qualified holder)
- the card is valid for the function being carried out
These checks may require the supplier to refer to the skills card’s issuing authority. This is important because the Specification for Highway Works requires qualified workers to have gained specific National Vocational Qualifications and undertaken specialist training and refresher training relating to their trade activity e.g. vehicle restraint systems.
Applicants for many of the skills card schemes will have to pass the Construction Industry Training Body (CITB) health, safety and environment test before being considered competent. See the table below to check which skills card schemes require the additional CITB test.
|Scheme title||Health, safety and environment test requirement?|
|Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)/Construction Industry Training Body/Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS)/Construction Skills Register/FISS/LISS||Yes. Separate test to be undertaken.|
|Certificate of Competence of Demolition Operatives||Yes. Separate test to be undertaken.|
|Asbestos Control and Abatement Division||No.|
|BASIS Advanced Contractors Certification Scheme||Some aspects of health and safety are covered including control of substances hazardous to health.|
|British Drilling Association (BDA)||Health and safety is an integral part of national vocational qualification (NVQ) Land Drilling and BDA Audit.|
|Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme||Yes. Separate test to be undertaken.|
|Equipment Operators Registration Scheme||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
|Energy & Utility Skills Register||Health and safety module is part of NVQ.|
|Fall Arrest Safety Equipment Training||Yes. Separate test to be undertaken.|
Industrial Coating Applicator Training Scheme (Correx -ICATS)Industrial Coating Applicator Training Scheme (Corrodere - Train the Painter (TTP))
|The schemes have a specific section on health and safety. A separate health and safety test would be required for a CSCS card.|
|International Powered Access Federation||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
|Industrial Rope Access Trade Association||Health and safety is a core skill.|
|Institute of Vehicle Recovery||VR1 Health and Safety is a core module.|
|Joint Industry Board/Electrotechnical Certification Scheme||Yes. Separate test to be undertaken.|
|Lantra||Health and safety is included within each Temporary Traffic Management Sector Scheme course. No separate test is required.|
|Mineral Products Qualifications Council||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
|National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC)||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
|National Register of Sprayer Operatives||Does not specifically cover health and safety but to be eligible for membership the operator must hold the NPTC certificate of competence which therefore means they will have covered health and safety issues.|
|Registration of Land based Operatives (ROLO)||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
|Road Surface Treatments Association||Yes. Separate test to be taken.|
|Road Safety Markings Association||Yes. Separate test to be taken.|
|Street Works Qualifications Register||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
In association with the CITB, the NHSS has developed a specialist health and safety test for highway workers. This is the normal requirement for operatives working on the highway. There are some exceptions, for example, general fence installers have different health and safety requirements, particularly with regard to the use of plant.
The CITB test can be taken at many locations around the UK. Some are fixed test centres, others are mobile testing units which go to set locations on certain days of the week.
To register for the test, call the CITB Enquiry Line on 0344 994 4400, and for information on mobile testing call the Mobile Testing Helpline on 0344 994 4492.
You'll need to specify which CSCS or affiliated partnership card scheme you're applying for so that CITB can book you into the right category of test. Generally, highway workers will need to take the Highways test.
There are separate CITB tests for supervisors, and managers and professionals.
The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) is a single skills card specifically for the plant sector of the construction industry. It proves plant operators’ craft skills across more than 60 categories of plant and machinery, as well as their health and safety awareness. The CPCS is owned and run by NOCN Job Cards (part of NOCN Group), which includes a range of plant and equipment industry organisations.
The CPCS skills card
The CPCS offers two levels of skills card - the red Trained Operator card, and the blue Competent Operator card. There are four stages of progression to gain and retain the blue Competent Operator card:
- Working towards a red Trained Operator card
- Moving from a Trained Operator card to a blue Competent Operator card
- Working directly towards a Competent Operator card
- Renewing a Competent Operator card
CPCS has worked with the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) to support the skills shortage within the piling sector and will be piloting a new yellow Provisional card, which will be free of charge.
The CPCS Technical Test
The CPCS Technical Test applies across all CPCS categories. The test comes in two parts - a theory test and a practical test.
There is also an Advanced Technical Test for the blue Competent Operator card, also made up of a theory and practical test.
Renewing a blue card
To renew your blue Competent Operator skills card, you'll need to take a CPCS Renewal Theory Test at a CPCS Test Centre. You'll also need to either:
- record 300 operating hours in your logbook and present this to the Test Centre, or
- pass a CPCS Practical Test at the CPCS Test Centre - or at your workplace as an on-site assessment
On-site assessment is carried out by a CPCS-registered tester.
Finally, you need to record in your logbook all ongoing training, including health and safety refreshers or manufacturers updates.
Gaining a red or blue card
To gain a blue Competent Operator card, you'll need to pass the following qualifications:
- CITB health, safety and environment test
- Advanced CPCS Technical Test - including a theory test and practical test
- Relevant Scottish or National Vocational Qualifications (S/NVQ)
To gain a red Trained Operator card, you'll need to pass:
- the CITB health, safety and environment test
- the CPCS Technical Test
Training for these qualifications can be done either in-house, or through training providers. The CPCS can also provide training.
You can find further information on CPCS here.
You can also find a list of approved test centres. A test centre may deliver training using the same facilities provided for testing, as long as there's no conflict between the training and CPCS Technical Test delivery. You can find a list of training centres here.
CPCS Test Centres and approved S/NVQ centres
Operators will take their CITB health, safety and environment test and CPCS theory and practical tests for the CPCS red and blue cards at a CPCS Test Centre.
For the blue card, you'll also need to gain an appropriate S/NVQ from an approved S/NVQ centre, which might also be a CPCS Test Centre. If your local CPCS Test Centre is not an approved S/NVQ centre, it will be able to provide details of one.
CPCS-related NVQs or SNVQs that are awarded by Lantra are developed from and based on National Occupational Standards (NOS). Lantra is accredited to ISO 9001 and also registered with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
The National Plant Operators Registration Scheme (NPORS) provides training for the CPCS. It awards its own NPORS Operator Card. NPORS is accredited to ISO 9001 and its awards are based on NOS.
Highways occupations that don’t need a CPCS card
Some highways occupations that involve plant operation - such as fence erectors, asphalt layers and surface dressers - don't require a CPCS card. This is because plant competence is included in their CSCS skills card as part of the NVQ qualification. To check which highways occupations do not require a CPCS card, you can find the NHSS documents on the schedule of suppliers website. You'll find information about card requirements in Appendix C of each Scheme Document.
Regardless of whether or not highways workers require a CPCS card, if they need to drive categories of plant on the public highway, they must possess the appropriate driving licence.
National Highways customer contact centre
0300 123 5000
0300 999 1177 (option 1, option 1)
CITB Enquiry Line
0344 994 4400
Mobile Testing Helpline
0344 994 4492