The CITB Health, safety and environment (HS&E) test is essential for construction workers to prove their competency in Health & Safety. It tests a diverse range of topics, improving safety and productivity on site and shows candidates can work responsibly to ensure their colleagues are also kept safe and as a result, putting neither at the risk of injury. The HS&E test also gives employers the reassurance that their workforce is trained in site safety.
The formats of all tests are as follows. Candidates will have 45 minutes to answer 50 questions on the five core knowledge areas: legal and management, health and welfare, general safety, high-risk activities and environment. These 50 questions include additional content in both Specialists and Managers and Professionals tests. Behavioural case studies are also utilised in tests to further understand the candidate’s awareness of HS&E issues, including how to behave safely on site. The HS&E test costs £21, with expiry after 2 years, and upon completion, you can apply to obtain the relevant CSCS card or undertake further construction training. The CSCS cards are valid for 5 years with the exception of trainee cards which are valid for 1 or 3 years.
Upon successful completion of an HS&E test, you can obtain the relevant Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card which costs £36. These cards provide proof that each worker has the appropriate training and qualifications for the job and plays an important role in improving standards and safety across the UK on construction sites. Obtaining and carrying a CSCS card not only reassures your employer that site safety is not compromised, but it also proves to contractors that you are qualified, guaranteeing on-site productivity and dedication to continuous improvement in health and safety management. For each exam taken, there are corresponding CSCS cards which the candidate can apply for. The cards and their corresponding tests are as follows:
Candidates must gain a Level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment and pass the operative HS&E test. Upon achievement, this card is valid for 5 years and can be renewed, however, some level 1 health and safety awards expire after a number of years. The candidate will need to have a HSE test pass certificate within the last 2 years and a valid health and safety course certificate, recognised by CITB.
This card is available to candidates on a recognised apprenticeship scheme and upon obtaining, this card is valid for 4 years and 6 months after which it cannot be renewed. Candidates need to take the operative HS&E, however, they may be exempt if they have sufficient training under their apprenticeship scheme in the form of any one of the following:
- Sufficient evidence from the Managing Agency of the candidate’s apprenticeship confirming that the candidate has met the Managing Agency’s Health and Safety requirements
- A certificate for a one-day Health and Safety Awareness course
- A Health and Safety unit included in the candidate’s induction or initial qualification.
This is a temporary card available only to Supervisors, Managers and Technical Workers with experience on-site (at least one year of experience in the past three). Candidates must be registered to complete a construction related NVQ, however, should not be part of an approved Professional body (required for the Professionally Qualified Person card). Candidates must also have passed the HS&E test (Supervisors take the supervisors test; managers take the Managers and Professionals test) within the past two years.
This card is similar to the above Red Experienced Technical, Supervisor or Manager card as this is also temporary and is available only to workers with on-site experience (at least one year in the past three). Candidates must also be registered to complete a Construction related NVQ Level 2 or higher award. The Operative HS&E test must have been taken and passed within 2 years prior to application for this card.
The temporary card is available to trainee candidates registered to complete either a vocational, academic or professional qualification related to the construction industry. The operatives HS&E test must also have been passed within two years prior to application for this card.
Candidates must have achieved either a construction related NVQ Level 2 award or completed an apprenticeship (such as the CSCS Approved Trailblazer). In addition to this, they must have passed the operative or specialist HS&E test within two years prior to application. This card is valid for 5 years.
Candidates must have completed a construction related NVQ Level 3 or complete an approved apprenticeship/employer-sponsored apprenticeship. You must also have passed the Operative/Specialist HS&E test (depending on the candidate’s occupation)
Candidates with a Construction related Supervisory/Technical NVQ Level 3 or 4 and a Supervisors HS&E test can apply for this card. This card is available for supervisor and technical occupations and is valid for 5 years.
Candidates must have either:
- Achieved an NVQ Level 4,5 or 6 in a relevant Construction Management/Technical related award
- Have a pre-existing award in NVQ Level 4 Construction Management.
Candidates must also have passed the Managers and Professionals HS&E test to obtain this card (which is valid for 5 years).
Candidates who have completed recognised construction-related degrees are able to apply for this card (evidence of this qualification is required in the appropriate form). Additionally, a pass in the Managers and Professionals HS&E test is required. This card is valid for 5 years.
These cards are only available to candidates who have been competence assessed by CSCS approved bodies i.e. the candidate is required to be a part of a CSCS approved professional body. Some of these such bodies are as follows:
- Architects Registration Board
- Chartered Institute of Building
- Institute of Civil Engineering
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
- Association for Projects Safety
- Energy Institute
- Institute of Demolition Engineers
- British Computer Society
- Institution of Highways Engineers
Candidates must submit evidence of the above and need to have passed the Managers and Professional HS&E test. This card is valid for 5 years.
This card is a temporary card available to candidates undergoing a probationary period whilst employers assess the suitability of employment. Provisional cards are only issued to candidates who have not been given one before. All candidates will need to have passed the operatives HS&E test within the past two years. This card lasts for 6 months and is non-renewable. Within the six months of obtaining the Provisional CSCS card, the candidate must achieve or be registered for a recognised construction related qualification and the appropriate CSCS card.
For each specialist CSCS card, you must also have the corresponding NVQ qualification in addition to the HS&E tests. A list of the NVQ qualifications and the corresponding CSCS cards can be found below:
- Level 2 – Certificate in Interior Systems (Blue CSCS Skilled Worker Card)
- Level 2 – Diploma in Curtain Wall Insulation (Blue CSCS Skilled Worker Card)
- Level 2 – Diploma in Plant Operations (Blue CSCS Skilled Worker Card)
- Level 2 – Diploma in Steel Erecting (Blue CSCS Skilled Worker Card)
- Level 2 – Diploma in Waterproof Membrane Roofing Systems (Blue CSCS Skilled Worker Card)
- Level 2 – Diploma in Wood Occupations (Blue CSCS Skilled Worker Card)
- Level 3 – Diploma in Cladding Occupations (Gold CSCS Advanced Craft Card)
- Level 3 – Diploma in Fenestration Installation (Gold CSCS Advanced Craft Card)
- Level 3 – Diploma in Occupational Work Supervision (Gold CSCS Supervisor Card)
- Level 3 – Diploma in Roofing Occupations (Gold CSCS Advanced Craft Card)
- Level 3 – Diploma in Steel Erecting (Gold CSCS Supervisor Card)
- Level 4 – Diploma in Construction Site Management (Gold CSCS Supervisor Card)
- Level 6 – Diploma in Construction Site Management (Black CSCS Managers Card)
- Level 6 – Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety Practice (Black CSCS Managers Card)
- Level 7 – Diploma in Construction Senior Management (Black CSCS Managers Card)
Types of HS&E test
There are three different types of HS&E test available, depending on the candidate’s requirements: Operative, Specialists, Managers and Professionals. Each different exam leads to a different specialism, with operative tests being at the minimum required level.
The operatives test examines HS&E awareness, helping to raise standards across the industry by ensuring all workers meet a minimum level of health, safety, and environmental awareness. It lasts 45 minutes and is comprised of 50 questions made up of both behavioural case studies and knowledge questions on only the five core knowledge areas (as mentioned above). A minimum mark of 45 out of 50 is required to pass. Upon successful completion of this test, you can apply for the following CSCS cards: Labourer card, the Trainee card, the Apprentice card, most Blue Skilled Worker cards and most Gold Advanced Craft cards.
Managers and Professional
The Manager and Professionals test, tests for everything required in the operatives exam, as well as additional material on the following topics:
- Construction (design and management) regulations
- Plumbing or gas
- Highway works
This test takes the format of 50 multiple choice questions split in the following ways:
- 12 behavioural case study questions, assessing the candidate’s awareness of safe behaviour on a construction site
- 38 knowledge questions to assess awareness of HS&E issues.
The test must be completed in 45 minutes and requires 45 out of 50 for a pass. Upon successful completion, you can obtain the following CSCS cards: Black Managers card and the Academically or Professionally Qualified person cards.
Specialist tests are taken in a variety of fields. They include questions surrounding the five core knowledge areas in addition to additional questions relevant to the specialist area(s) chosen and require a 45 out of 50 marks to pass. The Specialists test is available in each of the following topics:
- Supervisory (SUP)
- Demolition (DEM)
- Plumbing (JIB) (PLUM)
- Highway works (HIW)
- Specialist work at height (WAH)
- Lifts and escalators (LAEE)
- Tunnelling (TUNN)
- HVACR – heating and plumbing services (HAPS)
- HVACR – pipefitting and welding (PFW)
- HVACR – ductwork (DUCT)
- HVACR – refrigeration and air conditioning (RAAC)
- HVACE – services and facilities maintenance (SAF)
The specialists test can only be taken in one of the above fields, depending on the occupational requirement of the candidate. This test correlates to the following CSCS cards: Gold Supervisor card as well as Blue Skilled Worker and Gold Advanced Craft cards in certain occupations.
The final type of touchscreen test is the Renewal Test (RT). The RT is similar to the previously mentioned Health, Safety and Environment test; however, it is used to renew a CPCS Blue Competent Operator Card. These tests can also be taken at any Pearson Vue test centre. Renewal tests take 15 minutes and consist of 15 multiple choice questions about the category of plant machinery that you have chosen to renew. Candidates are required to take tests for each group of categories listed on their card.
The Health, Safety and Environment test for Operatives is an essential qualification before undergoing your NPORS or CPCS training and testing. Operators of plant machinery are required to have an in-date Health, Safety and Environment test to prove their competency in Health & Safety. Before a card can be issued to the candidate, the awarding bodies such as CPCS or NPORS like to see that the operator is a safe and responsible employee who will promote site safety. This helps to ensure that dangerous operators do not get behind the controls of heavy machinery which can easily cause huge amounts of damage or worse, death.
The CITB Health, Safety and Environment test is just the first step in your construction career. Every site operative should have taken this test at some point in their career as it is a stepping stone to further qualifications. The Health, Safety and Environment test will come together with the NVQs/training that you have achieved to allow you to apply for higher-level cards and take on more responsibilities on-site.