National Highway Sector Schemes and Construction Skills Certification Scheme registration and skills card requirements for Highways England suppliers.
Highways England requires its suppliers to employ fully qualified and registered operatives, whose registration/skills cards show the status and categories of work that the holder is competent to do. Registration and skills cards are issued by the National Highway Sector Schemes (NHSS) and the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS).
Highways England contractors and sub-contractors are usually required to attend NHSS. They outline the latest information about skills cards and provide details of operatives’ minimum qualifications and training that are acceptable to Highways England and other overseeing organisations.
Highways England accepts CSCS cards that are included in an NHSS. However, NHSS often include additional minimum requirements beyond CSCS registration, such as refresher training. CSCS-registered operatives also need to comply with these requirements.
This guide describes the registration/skills card requirements specified by Highways England for their suppliers.
Skills card schemes for Highways England contractors
If you win a Highways England contract and work is specified in accordance with the Specification for Highway Works (SHW), you will need to register with a National Highways Sector Scheme (NHSS) for specific areas of work. You can find details of the SHW on Standards for Highways.
NHSS is a partnership between industry, highway authorities, certification industry, training/competency bodies and others such as the Health & Safety Executive. NHSSs are management schemes that focus on quality as an objective and, among other things, specify the minimum qualifications and training that you need for particular roles.
Registration and skills cards for operatives working on the Highways England network are issued by the NHSS and the Construction Skills Certification Scheme.
There are a number of skills card schemes available for operatives working on the Highways England network. The CSCS card, for example, covers many occupations and skills whereas the Road Surface Treatment Association card for surface dressing covers a single occupation.
The adoption of the CSCS card by the UK Contractors Group and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association has significantly increased the uptake of skills cards. Several existing card schemes are affiliating to the CSCS, but until individual cards are due for renewal, some unaffiliated existing cards will continue to be valid for a number of years. You can find out about CSCS-affiliated and amalgamated schemes on the CSCS website.
The various accreditations and certifications include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- National Highways Sector Scheme accreditation - this is usually required for managing agent and larger contracts
- health and safety assessment certification - this is usually required for managing agent contracts and large contracts
Accreditation to an NHSS
To achieve accreditation to an NHSS, you need to:
- download the current Sector Scheme Document for the industry you require approval from - find a NHSS list on the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) website
- contact the approved certification body to arrange an audit
After a successful audit, your organisation will receive an approved certificate of scope. This will allow you to operate the scheme on Highways England roads or any contracts requiring sector scheme approval.
Highways England - accepted skills card schemes
Asbestos Control and Abatement Division (ACAD)
ACAD Helpline on Tel 01325 466 704
Find information on ACAD on the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association website.
BASIS Advanced Contractors Certification Scheme (BACCS)
BASIS (Registration) Limited Enquiry Line on Tel 01335 343 945
Find information on the BACCS on the BASIS website.
British Drilling Association (BDA)
BDA Helpline on Tel 01327 264 622
Energy & Utility Skills Register (EUSR)
EUSR Helpline on Tel 0845 077 9922
Equipment Operators Registration Scheme (EORS)
Find out about the EORS on the Highways and Construction Training Association website.
Industrial Coating Applicator Training Scheme (ICATS)
ICATS Helpline on Tel 01525 851 771
Find out about the ICATS on the Institute of Corrosion website.
International Powered Access Federation (IPAF)
IPAF Helpline on Tel 01539 562 444
Find information on the IPAF scheme on the IPAF website.
Institute of Vehicle Recovery (IVR)
IVR Helpline on Tel 01895 436 426
Lantra Awards Helpline on Tel 024 7641 9703
Find out about Lantra Awards on the Lantra Awards website.
Mineral Products Qualification Council (MPQC)
MPQC Helpline on Tel 01727 869 008
Find out about MPQC qualifications on the Epic Ltd website.
National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC)
NPTC Helpline on Tel 024 7685 7300 Find out about the NPTC on the NPTC website.
National Register of Sprayer Operatives (NRoSO)
Find out about NRoSO schemes on the NRoSO website.
Refined Bitumen Association (RBA)
RBA Helpline on Tel 01423 876 361 Find out about RBA schemes on the RBA website.
Registration of Land based Operatives (ROLO)
ROLO Helpline on Tel 024 7669 8652
Street Works Qualifications Register (SWQR)
SWQR Helpline on Tel 0845 270 2720
Checking Highways England operatives’ skills cards
Highways England suppliers’ quality management schemes require operatives to carry skills cards whilst working on the network. This means that suppliers are responsible for checking that:
- operatives 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 operatives to have gained specific National Vocational Qualifications and undertaken specialist training and refresher training relating to their trade activity - eg vehicle restraint systems.
Health and safety test for highway workers
Applicants for many of the skills card schemes will have to pass the Construction Industry Training Body (CITB) health and safety test before being considered competent. See the table below to check which skills card schemes require the additional CITB health and safety test.
|Scheme title||Health and safety test requirement|
|Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)/Construction Industry Training Body/Construction Plant Competence Scheme/Construction Skills Register||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.|
|Mineral Products Qualifications Council||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 (ICATS)||ICATS scheme has 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 Awards||Health and safety is included within each Sector Scheme course. No separate test is required.|
|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.|
|Refined Bitumen Association||Health and safety is an integral part of the assessment course.|
|Registration of Land based Operatives||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 health and safety test can be taken at over 150 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 health and safety test, call the CITB Enquiry Line on Tel 0344 994 4400, and for information on mobile testing call the Mobile Testing Helpline on Tel 0161 868 9255.
You will need to specify which CSCS or affiliated card scheme you are applying for, so that CITB can book you into the right category of health and safety test. Generally, highway operatives will need to take the Highways test.
The Construction Plant Competence Scheme and the construction plant list
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 Construction Skills, and the CPCS Management Committee, which includes a range of plant and equipment industry organisations.
The new CPCS
Since 1 January 2009 a new version of the CPCS has been operating - however, cards issued under the previous scheme will remain valid until they are due for renewal. The main changes to the CPCS are:
- the new CPCS Technical Test
- the new CPCS blue card renewal scheme
- delivery of CPCS card holders’ qualifications through CPCS Test Centres
The CPCS Skills card
The CPCS continues to offer two levels of skills card - the red Trained Operator card, and the blue Competent Operator card. There are four stages of progression to gain 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
The CPCS Technical Test
The CPCS Technical Test applies across all categories in the CPCS. It has replaced the Intermediate Certificate, which was the training and testing element for the red Trained Operator card.
The CPCS Technical 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 CPCS Competent Operator skills card, you will need to take a CPCS Renewal Theory Test at a CPCS Test Centre. You will also need to either:
- record 300 operating hours in your logbook and present this to the Test Centre
- 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 will need to pass the following qualifications:
- CPCS Health and Safety Test
- Advanced CPCS Technical Test - including a CPCS Theory Test and CPCS Practical Test
- relevant Scottish and National Vocational Qualifications (S/NVQ)
To gain a red Trained Operator card, you will need to pass:
- the Health and Safety 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.
CPCS Test Centres and approved S/NVQ centres
Operators will take their Health and Safety Test and CPCS Theory and Practical Tests for the CPCS red and blue cards at a CPCS Test Centre.
For the blue card, you will 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 Awards are accredited to ISO9001 and also registered with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
The National Plant Operators Registration Scheme (NPORS) used to be involved in the old CPCS, but no longer provides any training for the new version of the CPCS. It awards its own NPORS Operator Card. NPORS is accredited to ISO9001 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 - do not 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 NHSS documents on the UKAS website. You will find information about exemption from CPCS card requirements in Appendix C of each Scheme Document.
Regardless of whether or not highways operators require a CPCS card, if they need to drive categories of plant on the public highway they must possess the appropriate driving licence.
Highways England customer contact centre
0300 123 5000
0844 576 8777
CITB Enquiry Line
0344 994 4400
Mobile Testing Helpline
0161 868 9255