Unite has expressed deep concern at the announcement that Highways England has launched a new health and safety ‘passport’. The lack of consultation and secrecy concerning the new card scheme has created confusion and could doom the scheme to failure.
All 50,000 workers undertaking work on Highways England sites will be expected to have the new card. The card scheme will be run by outsourcing specialists Mitie and the training associated with the card undertaken by Lantra.
Unite, which represents workers who will be expected to possess the card, has not been consulted about its introduction and the union also understands that other key sections of industry have also not been consulted.
The decision to introduce yet another construction safety card flies in the face of the advice of the Construction Leadership Council (which is affiliated to theDepartment for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy) that has recommended that all card schemes should carry the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) logo and ‘no equivalents should be accepted’.
Many workers who undertake work on highways also work on normal construction sites they will have to carry both a CSCS card and the new Highways card. Unite is concerned that workers will have the cost of the new card and training passed onto them and the failure to consult means this is more likely to occur.
Unite understands that the new scheme was officially launched on October 1 2017 and that all 50,000 workers will be expected to have the new card within 12 months. However, it appears that Mitie has been given just a two year contract to administer the scheme, raising further questions about its longevity.
“Unite has been at the forefront of improving construction safety; any initiative which improves workplace safety would normally be welcomed,” said Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail.
“However, to be successful the new scheme must have the support of the workforce and the lack of consultation with unions and industry bodies, dramatically undermines this initiative.
“Workers will be concerned that employers will require them to pay for the cost of the new card and any additional training and the lack of communication has meant that agreements to ensure that employers pay the cost are not in place.
“This is yet another example of the lack of joined up government,” she added. “The CLC is saying one thing and then Highways England has unilaterally gone off and undermined the policy of having one single card scheme.
“The involvement of Mitie is very alarming. Other card schemes are being run by not for profit organisations. Are Mitie and Highways England looking to profit out of a safety initiative?
“If Highways England is so concerned about the safety of highways workers why on earth are they planning to increase the speed limit around motorway roadworks which will place already vulnerable workers in even greater danger.”