I am a construction worker: how do I get a CSCS card?

Updated on 2 August 2021


Being a labourer in the construction industry is a popular work choice for some migrants. If you have been trying to find a job in construction, you may have heard of ‘CSCS’, which stands for Construction Skills Certification Scheme. Here we explain how to get a CSCS card.

Illustration of construction workers

The CSCS helps keep workers in the UK’s construction industry safe – and therefore sites running smoothly.

Workers are able to apply for a CSCS card once they have shown that they hold a level of skill and competence on matters such as manual handling and hazardous substances, as well as health and safety awareness. The scheme is widely used on the majority of construction sites.

It is important for you to understand that you can apply for a CSCS card by yourself (at a cost) and here we give you some more information to help you do this. You do not need to use a third-party organisation to help you with the application – usually they charge a hefty fee on top of the official price.

You may also be interested in our guidance on tax if you are a construction worker.

Who runs the CSCS?

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) runs the CSCS.

The CITB is an organisation set up by the Government to work with construction companies to help build the UK’s reputation for having a world-class construction industry.

One of the ways they do this is by making employers in the construction industry pay a levy, which is then used to fund projects to do things like improve skills and promote training of workers in the construction industry.

The CSCS was set up as part of this – to help reduce accidents on construction sites and help them to run more smoothly. The CITB also run different schemes, like those specifically for shop fitters.

The intention is that the employer pays the levy from its own pocket and does not try and ‘pass it on’ to its workers, so you should watch out for things like ‘CITB levy’ appearing on your payslip.

Can you tell me more about the CSCS?

Set up in the 1990s, the CSCS keeps a database of those working in construction, who have attained an agreed level of occupational competence. Successful applicants are issued with a card – this gives them a means of identification and confirms that they have the required training and qualifications.

As different jobs on a building site require different skills and qualifications, there are a range of cards to cover different occupations within the construction industry. For example: Manager, Skilled Worker, and Labourer. The Labourer card is the entry-level card, as labouring is essentially a non-skilled role. However, you still need to demonstrate you have achieved a minimum standard.

This card is valid for five years and can be renewed. You can also upgrade your card if you progress.

You can find out more about the different cards from the CSCS.

How do I get the qualifications for a Labourer card?

From 1 July 2014, you must have passed the Level One Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment (this is a lifelong qualification, usually achieved as part of longer-term vocational training) or hold a valid one-day Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness Course certificate (this is a standalone qualification) or one of the alternatives referred by the CSCS.

To find out more about the first qualification, contact your local college of further education, training provider or Jobcentre Plus. They should also be able to provide advice about any financial help that may be available to you to go towards paying for the course.

For many people who are not in construction work long term, the Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness Course is usually the first step towards getting the CSCS Labourer card. You can find details of training providers for the Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness Course from the CITB.

The course costs around £150 plus VAT including lunch and manuals. The minimum entry requirements are that you have a good understanding of spoken and written English.

Prior to July 2014, you did not need either of these qualifications – your employer could verify that you held the relevant knowledge and training, however this system was open to abuse and so was changed. If you obtained your CSCS card under the old-style scheme, then it remains valid until its current expiry date. However, you will then need to apply for a CSCS card under the new system.

All applicants must also pass the Operatives CITB Health Safety and Environment test which examines knowledge across a wide range of topics and costs £21.00 to sit. You can find more information about the test from the CSCS.

Can you tell me more about how to prepare for the CITB Health Safety and Environment test?

The CITB’s online store provides the necessary revision material to help with your preparation for the test. You should also be able to get this in bookshops.

The main handbook for Labourers is called Health, Safety and Environment test for operatives and specialists and is available from the CITB online bookshop.

The CITB have launched a mobile app to help you revise for the Health, Safety and Environment test. This is available from the CITB.

The official revision material book is only available in English. The app is available in 14 different languages including Polish, Bulgarian and Portuguese.

You should make sure that all your revision material is the most up-to-date version.

You usually take the CITB Health Safety and Environment test as a computer touch screen test and assistance in different languages is available. You will have to sit this test in an approved CITB centre. You can find out more about the test from the CITB. You can find out more about booking and preparing for the test from the CITB.

You should be aware that passing the CITB Health Safety and Environment test on its own will not be enough to get you a CSCS Labourer card – see above.

What do I do once I have the CSCS qualifications?

Once you have either the Level One Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment or the Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness Course AND the CITB Health Safety and Environment test, you can apply for the Labourer card. You can find more details about how to apply from the CSCS.

You can make the application by phone or online.

There is an instruction guide to help you complete the application on the CSCS website. If you are completing the application online, you should choose the option for a ‘Craft and Operative Card’. This is suitable for site visitors, basic site operatives and construction related occupation (CRO) workers and is the application form that you will need to get a Labourer card.

Some useful frequently asked questions about applying for a CSCS card are published by the CSCS.

How much does the card cost?

There is a £36 fee for the card, so it is important to keep it safe, as you will have to pay for a new one if you lose it. There is more information from the CSCS about what to do if you lose your card or if it is stolen.

Once you receive your card, you should make a separate note of the CSCS Registration number that you have been given (which will be on the card), just in case of any mishaps and so it is easy for CSCS to trace your record.

How can I contact CSCS?

You can find contact details for CSCS on their website.

You can find information about how to contact the CITB on their website.

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