How do you ensure site workers are qualified for their roles and eligible to work in the UK? The issues surrounding the verification of workers on construction and engineering sites have been a source for concern and debate for many years, posing questions about the validity of worker qualifications, competence and suitability to work. Contractors have long faced a challenge to ensure they can supply an appropriate workforce for a contract, and project/site managers alike face similar challenges to ensure their contractors are supplying what they need as we will now explain.
One must ask: Why is this so complicated? Surely when a contractor employs a team, the process is like any other recruitment drive i.e. working through CV’s and checking that the information enclosed is correct and valid? But the verification process within the construction and engineering sector requires this to be much more rigorous due to the nature of the project brief. Not everyone is qualified or sufficiently skilled to be on a site, and while they may have held qualifications in the past; these are time-sensitive and must be continuously updated.
A recent survey showed that 67% of site managers never check the identification of their workers. In one recent report, the owner of a construction company was jailed for five years because he employed illegal immigrants to supply labour for a project to build Carillion’s Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick. In May 2019, 17 arrests were made on Brighton’s Circus Street site following a raid by Sussex Police and Immigration enforcement officers. The company involved in Brighton Circus stated a commitment to ethical practice: “our contracts with construction contractors require that they abide by employment and immigration law and that all site personnel are qualified to come on site.”
This isn’t just about eligibility to work in the UK, but about how contractors and site managers can ensure that their employees are not only competent but hold current and valid qualifications for their project. Investing in contractor labour without an appropriate contractor verification system in place presents significant risk to business, either from an immigration perspective or from having unskilled workers on a site, posing a substantial risk to safety, quality and reputation.
The already time-consuming and laborious nature of checking employee backgrounds, along with the current delays concerning the issuing of CISRS (Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme) cards, makes it much more difficult to ensure that workers are going through an appropriate and ethical process of verification. The CISRS recently contacted training providers ahead of a delay to the production of new Smart cards, with them only becoming available in mid-February. Despite their apologies, training specialists were unhappy, warning of the scheme potentially collapsing and even threatening legal action due to lost earnings caused by the delay.
So, where does the process break down? The processes of validation, continued compliance and monitoring are seemingly and notoriously floored; the CISRS card itself is vulnerable to forgery, and actually only forms part of the verification process. Companies also need to check identity and other qualifications, training and relevant medicals held.
Some questions must be asked, such as: has there been a delay in the project which may mean qualifications have now gone out of date? Is the person arriving on-site today part of the original verified team, or is he/she even the person they say they are?
In an ideal world, the credentials of workers should be checked, not only at the start of each new project, but also daily to ensure they remain valid. Of course, this would mean dedicating an untenable amount of time and resource to this task, hence corners being cut to save time, which can lead to future crises.
This additional verification is vitally important for sites, as approving non-verified workers can bring a number of issues impacting, cost, reputation, insurance, time and most importantly safety.
With all this in mind, the industry is desperately awaiting a safe and secure system for verification and validation of worker backgrounds and skill sets to provide peace of mind and legal compliance for both the contractors and the site owners. Fortunately, V Site Pass offer such a solution.