Site Manager Course Could Be Why Accidents Down 50%

The Site Manager Course, known as the SMSTS course, part of a regulatory and testing scheme that has reduced workplace injuries by almost 50% since 2001.

The Site Manager Course we offer has made construction safer for workers and managers alike. The UK passed the HSWA (Health and Safety at Work Act) in 1974. The Site Manager Course is a small part of the overall framework of HS&E regulations and procedures that have evolved since, a system which has seen a reduction of 86% in the number of accidents per 1000 workers in the UK since the HSWA was took effect in 1974.

The rates have kept falling, as well. The rate of injuries self-reported by workers in the UK was 3980 per 100,000 workers in 2000-2001. By 2014-2015 that number had fallen to 2030 per 100,000 – a drop of more than 48%!

Non-fatal injuries
(per 1000 workers)
Fatal injuries


Year Total Year Total
2001 3.980 1974 651
2015 2,030 2015 92


Of course, safety involves more than just accidents. The construction industry in particular is subject to many occupational diseases, from mesothelioma (from asbestos exposure) to ‘white finger’ and a host of musculoskeletal disorders. In 1990 there were 5940 work related illnesses reported per 100,000 workers. By 2014-2015 that number had dropped to 3940 per 100,000 – a drop of more than a third!

Particularly in later years, this continued sharp reduction can be attributed to the HS&E training courses mandated by most employers and administered by various certification agencies and training organisations like ours.

What does the Site Manager Course actually cover?

The SMSTS site manager course gives managers and supervisors a grounding in site safety awareness. It covers both the regulatory and standards framework that defines their HS&E responsibilities but also practical experience maintaining a safe working environment for everyone on site.

Over five days, attendees of the site manager course study:

  • The HSAW act itself
  • Regulations covering CDM (construction design and management)
  • How to perform risk assessments
  • Behavioural safety techniques
  • Occupational health management
  • Working safely with electricity, plants and equipment, demolition, scaffolding and other hazards
  • And the latest developments in safe working standards

Who should take the Site Manager Course?

The course is ideal for anyone who is currently working as a site supervisor, project manager or has any other management role in the construction industry. It is also an excellent choice for anyone who wishes to work their way up to a supervisor’s or manager’s role.

I’ve already taken the Site Manager Course. What do I do when it expires?

While your CITB site safety plus certificate does expire after 5 years, you do not need to take the entire course over again to renew it. We offer a 2-day refresher course which will extend your certification for another 5 years, but it must be completed prior to the expiry date. If the expiry date has already passed, you have to take the full 5-day course instead.

Top Tips to Succeed with your CPCS Training

CPCS Training gives you the training you need to qualify for your CPCS card. This brief guide will show you how to make the most of the training.

CPCS Training Course

The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS Training) is a registration card scheme used across the UK’s construction industry, and trusted by employers to ensure that plant operators have the skills, practical competence and safety training necessary to operate heavy equipment on the worksite.

The CPCS training course gives you all the training and materials you will need to learn these skills, and is followed by the test itself. Nothing more than successful completion of the course and test are required to apply for your CPCS card.

What to Expect From the CPCS Course

A Valid CSCS Test is required to attend CPCS Training

Before you can take the CPCS Course or test, you’ll need to have successfully completed the CSCS Health, Safety and Environment test within the last two years.

You will receive study materials when you book CPCS Training.

When you book the course, you will receive documentation which will help you pass the Theory part of the training. You should not need any additional study aids or books to complete the training.

If you book in advance you will have more time to revise

Many people worry about the theory section of the CPCS Course. You really will learn everything you need in the course, but if you’d feel better with some extra time to revise, just book your course and test early. You’ll get the study materials in advance.

Can I get the test questions online?

Not really, but you can do your own research. The questions were written using publicly available data, including online manuals for your plant type, the manufacturer’s website, and the best practices information released by organisations like CPA. The Health and Safety Executive is another excellent resource.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. Your CPCS Training instructor will explain everything, and give you all the information you need to pass the test.

What is an IPAF Card and What Category Do I Need?

PAL certification scheme ensures that powered access equipment operatives have both skill and safety training by issuing IPAF cards specific to different types of equipment.


The IPAF Card is more properly called the PAL, which stands for Powered Access License. The PAL programme is run by the IPAF to ensure the safe and effective use of booms and powered access equipment on worksites all over the world. It is a not-for-profit organisation which represents the interest of its members, and acts as a forum for developing the safety procedures all powered access equipment operators use today.

Different Categories of IPAF Card

Your IPAF card will indicate which types of access equipment you are certified on, usually with a number and letter code in the card itself. For example:

1a – Static Vertical

This code on your PAL indicates that you are certified to operate static vertical personnel platforms. Static platforms can be moved into place, but cannot move under their own power, and should not be moved whilst occupied.

1b – Static Boom

This code indicates that you have training and certification on static boom platforms, including those mounted on vehicles, trailers, push-around mountings, or those mounted as self-propelled outriggers.

3a – Mobile Vertical

The 3a designation refers to mobile vertical platforms, such a scissor lifts, which can move under their own power.

3b – Mobile Boom

This refers to self-propelled mobile boom devices, which are typically piloted from the lift platform itself.

PAV – Push Around Vertical

This designation refers to push-around, non-powered vertical lift devices.


The ‘special’ designation indicates certification on one or more types of specialist machines, such as:

The PAL+ Course

All of the IPAF card types listed above can be awarded either with or without a ‘+’ (Static Boom 1b or 1b+, Mobile Boom 3b/3b+, etc. If the student has also successfully taken the PAL+ course, they are awarded the ‘+’ certification, listed on their IPAF card.

When should I take the SMSTS Refresher Course?

Your SMSTS expires after five years. Attending a SMSTS refresher course before it expires saves you money as you don’t need to take the full course again!

What is the SMSTS refresher?

The Site Manager Safety Training Scheme is the flagship course of CITB’s Site Safety Plus scheme. Many of the largest names in the UK’s construction industry require their supervisory level employees to maintain their SMSTS certification, and almost all strongly favour managers who do. For example, here are Balfour Beatty’s safety certification expectations. Keeping your certification up to date with an SMSTS Refresher Course is vital.

When do I need the SMSTS refresher Course?

Your SMSTS award expires five years after you get it. To see when yours expires, look on the course certificate you were given after completing it. It is important that you renew your certification by taking the SMSTS Refresher Course before the certificate’s expiry date.

What is the last day I can take my refresher?

The Expiry Date listed on your certificate is the last day it is valid, and the last day on which you can take the refresher course to renew your award, rather than taking the full SMSTS course all over again.

Why is it important to stay current with SMSTS?

The two primary reasons to renew your certification before it expires are time and money.

  • Time – The full SMSTS course takes place over 5 full days, requiring you to miss a full week of work. The refresher takes only 2 days.
  • Cost – The price of the full SMSTS course varies, but can be nearly twice as expensive as the Refresher – so you stand to lose a lot of money if you fail to renew on time!

What happens when site managers let their SMSTS certification expire?

That all depends on where you work. Main contractors who are part of the United Kingdom Contractors Group (like Skanska, Costain, and many other big employers in UK construction) require current SMSTS certification to hold a Site Manager position. Other employers may not be quite so strict, but most will choose to employ a manager who is currently SMSTS certified over one who is not.

Why do you need to take a CPCS Hoist Course?

The Construction Plant Competence scheme (CPCS) works with the CITB to ensure that plant operators have the training and experience they need to operate safely and competently. This competence is demonstrated by displaying your CPCS Card.

The thing is, these can be very expensive certifications to get. Most of those seeking them are sponsored by their employers, who are typically happy to spend the thousands of pounds required to ensure that their employers have all of the training they need – after all, the plants themselves can easily run to six figures and the lives of their workers are priceless (unless you are an insurance adjuster). However, many self-employed contractors struggle to support this kind of training. Still, having the right certification can make you much more employable, and is generally considered the right career move, even for the self-employed.

First, make sure you have all the prerequisites

For example, you must have passed your CITB Construction Skills Health and Safety Test within the last two years to gain any kind of CPCS certification. Luckily this is a simply touch-screen test, and training for it is both inexpensive and easy to find.

Next, determine the right certification to seek

We’re only talking about Hoist certification here, but if you don’t know what category you need, you might not actually be ready for CPCS certification at all. Do a little research, and make sure this is really what you need. Luckily the Hoists certification path is perhaps the least confusing as there is only one type of certification, and a single class will get you all four major endorsements within it.

Now, what is your level of competence?

Are you a total Novice, an Experienced Worker, or somewhere in between? Anyone who has passed the HSE test can be a novice, but only those with 2 years’ experience actually operating a hoist can qualify as an Experienced Worker.

CPCS Training or Assessment?

You can take the CPCS A20 Hoist Training course offered at either experience level, or you can dive right in and seek an NVQ assessment if you are quite confident in your abilities.

What Went Wrong with the Didcot Power Plant Explosion?

Just about everyone knows the basics of what happened at Didcot Power Station A in February, at least in general. At 4pm on the 23rd, nearly half of the plant collapsed, while demolition workers were still inside it.

Power Station A had not been in use for some 3 years, since being decommissioned in 2013. It ran for 43 years before it was shut down for the last time. The aging plant was too expensive to run and maintain, and rising pressure to reduce carbon emissions led to its being shut down whilst Didcot B, a newer and more efficient gas-fired power plant, continues to operate to this day.

The Attempted Demolition

Little is yet known about exactly what happened in the moments just before the partial collapse which killed four in February. As all the companies involved are loath to have their names associated with the disaster and have almost certainly been advised by their legal advisors to say nothing that could implicate them (either in court or in the papers, which can be even more damaging these days), we won’t be likely to learn more any time soon. We may have to wait until all the lawsuits have run their course before the real story can be told.

What we do know is that Coleman and Company were contracted to demolish the power station. It appears that they had not actually started the demolition itself at the time of the collapse. They may have been inspecting the plant, or making preparations to begin, but that is purely speculation.

Any plans for how the demolition would have occurred, and even who will ultimately be responsible for it, are now very likely moot. Many questions will have to be answered before work can begin again, and the controlled demolition of a half-collapsed structure is a much more challenging job than one that is still essentially whole.

The Human Cost of the Didcot Collapse

Initial reports were that four people had been taken to hospital with injuries and one worker was killed. It later developed that five people had been taken to John Radcliffe Hospital to recover. Approximately 50 people were treated on-site for dust inhalation in the wake of the collapse.

Currently one worker is known to have died in the collapse, but several are not yet accounted for, and are thought to have died that afternoon. As of 7 March, all three of the demolition workers remain missing, as they have not been found nor have their remains been recovered from the collapsed section of the plant.

Is there a link to the Npower layoffs just announced?

Whilst ownership is a complicated concept in the modern world of corporations and holding companies, RWE Npower is listed as the owner of the closed power station, and have been one of the chief sources of official announcements regarding the tragedy as it develops.

Certainly a disaster like this, involving the loss of several lives, bodes ill for the company. Nonetheless, it seems like the layoffs had been planned for some time, and were more a response to the company’s lack of profitability recently than as a result of the collapse. In 2014 Npower as a whole turned a profit of £175 million. By comparison, 2015 saw the company experiencing a £106 million loss.

Still, this couldn’t have helped their position.

What will the Future of Construction Be Like?

Looking Backwards to Look Forward

History is something that must usually be experienced backwards. We have a sense of ‘now’, but we can’t tell ourselves a story of where we came from or where we are going without studying the past. This is as true in the construction industry as anywhere else, and Samsung has released a very interesting report outlining where they think the construction industry might be going in the next century.

It looks at the astounding advances in building techniques and materials humanity has managed over the last 100 years, and tries to imagine where this accelerating curve will take us in the next. Is it speculation? Of course. But it is well-researched, and counts as at least an ‘educated guess’ about what the next few generations will be building.

Housing in the Future

Samsung believes that architecture will have to move away from the single-use buildings we see today. For continued growth of our cities to remain anything like sustainable, the building themselves must become two things: enduring and flexible.

Enduring: Simply put, we can’t keep up with the pace (or the expense in time and resources) of putting up buildings just to knock them down again in 10 or 20 years if we are going to have cities two or three times the size of those today. We have to develop techniques and materials which will endure, perhaps for centuries. They need to last as long as the castles of old yet be as large, open and functional as today’s architecture. The ability for these structures to self-repair will be a large part of that.

Flexible: Because those buildings will stay up, we need to be able to change what they are inside easily to suit new uses and owners every few years. ‘Smart’ interior walls which can rearrange themselves and even extrude seats, tables and equipment will, Samsung says, be necessary.

Building Tomorrow’s Amusements

In addition to needing vast amounts of space to live and work, the next century’s exploding population will need places to play. If the amount of leisure time the average person enjoys continues to increase at the pace of the last century, leisure may eclipse work in terms of its importance, and the size of its infrastructure.

Samsung suggests that the future of entertainment will be virtual reality. (Of course, this surely has nothing to do with advertising the Samsung Gear VR devices that they have invested so heavily in of late. Saying so would sound terribly cynical.) If so, then building leisure facilities in the future may be much more technical than architectural, with the end result looking more like the holodeck from Star Trek than the gleaming parks-inside-domes of Logan’s Run.

We shall see. Historically, predictions about how we will spend our leisure time have never been accurate. Who would have predicted social media (besides Orson Scott Card)

Bricklaying on Mars

Samsung firmly believes that people will be living and working in space long term by the end of the next century. Asteroid mining for resources and using those minerals and organic compounds to build space stations, sealed habitats on airless or poison moons and even terraforming larger worlds like Mars may be possible in that time. Of course, they said that in the 50s.

No matter exactly how these large scale off-Earth habitats finally look like, it won’t be astronauts building them. If this becomes a reality, specialist builders will be needed. After all, it took tens of thousands of independent contractors to build the Death Star.

There is no word yet as to whether you’ll need an NVQ level 2 or 3 to qualify as a Zero-G Vacuum Welder, but we’ll keep you posted.

The Dark Truth about Blacklisting in Construction

Blacklisting is alive and well in the UK’s construction industry, as Dave Smith and a number of other workers just proved in court.

In Brief

Several of the UK’s largest construction companies have been ordered to pay nearly £6 million in compensation to 71 different carpenters and bricklayers for denying them employment due to their presence on a ‘black list’, an illegal practice.

Just what happened?

These 71 workers (as well as many others not party to this particular case) had been branded as ‘trouble makers’ or ‘undesirable’ for other impermissible reasons on an unofficial (and in fact illegal) black list which was shared by more than 40 of the largest construction organisations in the UK, including Vinci, Skanska UK, Kier, Costain, Carillion, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and Balfour Beatty.

One could be blacklisted for properly raising HSE concerns, whistle blowing, or even simply being active in a trade union. The black list itself was maintained and shared by ‘The Consulting organisation’, which was shut down when the scandal first broke some seven years ago. More than 3000 names were on the list at that time, and there may well have been other black lists even then.

What can being blacklisted mean to a worker?

Simply put, many workers who were added to the blacklist suddenly found themselves all but unemployable. A great many of the largest employers in the industry consulted this list before hiring workers, labourers and operators of all kinds, and would simply refuse to hire those listed. Sometimes other reasons would be given, but workers do not have the right to ask why they were not hired, so no reason is typically given.

For the workers affected, it was essentially the end of their career in construction, at least in the UK. Some managed to get by despite being out of work for the entirety of the recent housing boom. Even then, they and their families suffered due to the lack of income. Others were not so lucky – when they were forced out of work, many of the victims saw their marriages break down or were even forced to leave their homes and country in search of work in an area which did not subscribe to this particular blacklist (though the practice goes on in many parts of the world).

Were you on the black list?

You can find out if you were included on the Consulting Association’s list from the Information Commissioner’s Office here.

What was the result of the court case?

In short, the companies who participated in the black list scheme were ordered to repay the 71 victims who were part of this single case for the suffering and lost wages they endured. The average pay-out was around £80,000, but a few individuals received as much as £200,000.

Is this the end of the matter?

Not at all. This only applies to 71 workers, of more than 3000 on a single black list. Organisations like the Blacklist Support Group and unions like GMB and Unite are still working to see that everyone on the list is compensated.

Many labour advocates are also pushing for those responsible for decision making in the guilty organisations face personal repercussions for their actions, including possible jail time. Only time will tell if they will get their wish.

Delayed £5m Blackburn Bus Station To Open this Easter

Blackburn, Lancashire’s problematic bus station is now to be open by Easter, despite the original contractor being sacked over safety concerns last summer. The new station is a part of the Pennine Reach programme, and was originally budgeted at nearly £5 million.

Innovative, possibly dangerous design

The bus station features more than 130 five meter glazing panels intended to give the station a dramatic, modern look. Unfortunately, somewhere between design and construction a series of problems developed.

The original contractors, Thomas Barnes & Sons Group PLC, said that they identified the safety concerns first, and wasted no time bringing them to the attention of the Council, stressing that delivering the design they chose within their stated budget would make delivering a safe structure difficult, if not impossible.

Independent structural engineers examined the structure and its worksite in April, but their report was shown only to the Council. Both the Council and Thomas Barnes & Sons have been closed-mouthed about what happened next, but by June, Barnes & Sons were officially out.

Eric Wright Construction was brought in to finish the project, and said they would be able to complete the structure safely – and at no additional taxpayer cost – with a revised deadline of Easter 2016.

Handover, bad weather and delays

Of course, turning a project of this scale over to another contractor is often a nightmare of expense and delays. Add the unexpected winter weather we just endured, and many people were expecting that Easter target to be missed. Despite the handover, the weather and even the loss of one of the infamous 5 metre by 1.5 metre glass panels to accident, Eric Wright’s Managing Director John Wilson recently announced that the bus station should be not only completed but open for business by Easter.

Can the construction industry solve its credibility problem?


A lot of very influential people are saying that the UK’s construction industry has a distinct credibility problem, and it is hard to deny the allegation. Despite steady, sustained improvements in worker health and safety and a recovery from the recent economic crisis that is no less than dramatic, the industry is seen as ‘troubled’ by many and ‘a bunch of crooks’ by a vociferous few. Here is one very good summary of the debate itself, and some of the proposed solutions to the industry’s image problems.

In essence, Mr Morrell points out that not only does the public already lack faith in the ‘virtue’ of the construction industry as a whole due to what is seen as a culture of corporate dishonesty, the industry itself is poorly configured to do its job in the modern world. The result is a looming housing crisis and a populus already bracing itself for the next economic downturn.

Make no mistake – the construction industry is one of the cornerstones of the continuing recovery of the British economy, and a failure to address this lack of confidence in its leadership could threaten that recovery, affecting people all over the world.

The self-policing option

Whilst the construction industry is already to a large extent self-policing, Mr Morrell points out that one option for improving its public image would be to make the culture within the industry more ‘professional’ in the classic sense.  In the same way that lawyers and doctors have traditionally been responsible for upholding not just the skill requirements and certification of their practicing members, they also address appearances and public perception. It is not enough, in a ‘classically professional’ culture, to act with all propriety and in accordance with law and regulation. It is just as important to act in such a way that preserves ‘the appearance of propriety’ in all of your business-related and personal actions.

Now, none of the ‘professional’ professions are without their scandals, but they do not face the same image crisis that the construction industry faces. It is certainly an option for the industry, but what would that kind of a culture change mean?

Could the industry really buy into that kind of cultural change? Would individual contractors or workers accept this level of individual responsibility (and the penalties for perceived unprofessionalism even in the absence of evidence of actual misdeeds)? Would Large corporate interests accept that a board of their ‘peers’ would have the power to punish them (or even expel them from the industry) for the sake of improving the industry’s image?

It would be a hard sell, at the very least.

The regulatory option

The other option presented by Mr Morrell is much more modern – but not necessarily any more appealing for all that. He suggests that public confidence in the virtue and responsibility of the construction industry as a whole could be re-established by a regime of stricter and more all-encompassing regulation.

There are certainly arguments for this in history. Industries dating from the time of the industrial revolution have been plagued by what has been called ‘the race to the bottom’, as increased competition in an under-regulated field led to a substantial competitive advantage for those companies and individuals who were willing to cut corners and sacrifice the health and safety of their workers (and even their customers) in order to produce whatever they produced faster and cheaper than anyone else.

No one can argue against the fact that certain industries cannot rely on the free market to correct this flight to the worst possible practices. The need for at least some central regulation and preservation of minimum acceptable standards is inherent in every Western culture, even those not involved in Europe’s ‘ever closer union’ debate.

On the other hand, the UK’s construction industry already is heavily regulated, and those regulations have shown real results. The current regulatory regime is still producing steadily improved conditions and practices within the industry, and many feel the combination of the UK and EU regulations are already too much of a burden. Could imposing regulations on more aspects of the industry, simultaneously increasing the costs of compliance and limiting the potential for profits really improve the industry’s image that much without choking it into recession?