A recent court case has highlighted the problems of fake skills cards in the industry.
Printer, Andrew Weeks, was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months at Warwick Crown Court after admitting to the production of fake plastic skills cards. The cards were printed at Mr. Weeks’ business premises, Nuneaton Print, and sold online into the construction industry. Evidently, some employers and clients of the industry were duped into believing that those whom Mr. Weeks supplied with plastic cards were accredited construction workers.
There are over 2,500,000 workers employed in the UK construction industry. The majority of these workers will have nothing to do with the purchase or use fake skills cards. However, the availability of low-cost, high-quality output plastic card printers in a labour-hungry industry is likely to mean that some will continue to exploit the inherent weakness of a gatekeeping system based on plastic cards. How many fake plastic skills cards are circulating in the UK construction industry? The truth is we don’t know.
Only a small part of the industry is adequately motivated or resourced to conduct anything other than basic trust-based visual checks. Most administrators will accept and photocopy plastic skills cards as a health and safety passport on face value. Only a minority will attempt to verify the authenticity of a card and the competency of the holder. The client focused obligation of ‘checking and authenticating one card at a time’ is, in fact, the ultimate cause of a poor effect on the ground.
Workers and staff come and go on projects according to the demand of the construction programme. The frequency of labour flowing across all trades often means that plastic card checks are mostly a superficial visual acceptance exercise.
Plastic cards can be lost, forgotten and easily forged. Site administrators across the UK industry must contend with a range of excuses which, if accepted, may compromise site safety and increase personal and corporate liability if something goes wrong.
The SparkSafe system is designed to eliminate the inherent weaknesses and inconsistencies of plastic card checking procedures. Electrical workers register online, their identity and vocational competencies are independently authenticated before being added to an online, contract specific WCR (Workforce Composition Report).
The WCR is a unique online resource which provides site administrators with an instant insight into who is on the job and how well they are electrically qualified to safely perform the work. The SparkSafe online solution provides independent assurance on worker identity and competence and also overcomes the typical range of excuses that Site Administrators must contend with, i.e., “I forgot it”, “I’ve lost it”, I’m waiting for a new one”, I’ve already been on site”, “My boss has it”.
Is it time to reduce or eliminate the administrative burden and bureaucracy associated with ineffective plastic card checking procedures on behalf of clients? Is it time to modernise the control and access to construction projects with an integrated online solution? Is it time to authenticate the identity and competency of individual electrical workers before they arrive on the construction site on behalf of the client?