David Hill, managing director of building services engineer Hills Electrical & Mechanical, takes Building through his experience of gaining a CSCS card
The Major Contractors' Group, which includes most of the country's largest building contractors, has decided that nobody will be allowed to enter their sites if they don't have a skills card. Since we do a lot of work for these companies, I decided that all of our people should have these cards. However, among many other consequences, this meant that if I wanted to go on site – which I did – then I too would have to get one.

To get a card you have to satisfy the Construction Industry Training Board (or equivalent authority) that you are technically competent and have an "appropriate" knowledge of health and safety. There are various types of cards covering various trades, but the one I wanted was for management. The CITB was prepared to accept the fact that I was technically competent – since I was already doing the job – but I would have to take the health and safety test like everyone else.

So I filled in all the paperwork, sent off my cheque and back came the date for the test.

A book came as well, giving all the possible multiple choice questions, some 500 in all. Just as in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the book becomes so important that you have to call it "The Book".

The Book explained that I would have to answer 40 questions chosen from the 500, using a touch computer screen at a local driving licence test centre. The Book did not explain what the pass mark was, and to this day this appears to be a state secret.

The Book was not quite up to Douglas Adams' standard for drama, and the plot was nonexistent. However, the authors clearly had a sense of humour when compiling some of the questions, as this example shows:

Question: Where would you go in the event of a fire?

Just as in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the CITB book becomes so important you have to call it “The Book”

Possible answers:
a) To the canteen for a cup of tea
b) To the fire assembly point
c) To the site hut
d) To the fire to see what is going on.

Another question asked what sensible action you can take to avoid chemicals entering your body by mouth: possible answers included "hold your breath and keep your mouth closed".

I have to say, however, that the standard of the questions overall seemed entirely appropriate, and I came away from reading and rereading The Book with a great admiration for whomever had spent many hours compiling the questions.

Eventually the morning of the test came around and I drove into Sutton Coldfield to take it. The procedure was explained to me. "Did I understand?" "Yes." The clock was counting down. I had 45 minutes.

Now it doesn't take very long to answer 40 questions, and I was done after a short while. Soon after, I was handed a piece of paper that said I'd passed. Bit of a damp squib really. But I was sure of two things: 1) you will not pass unless you work at The Book; 2) the whole exercise was an excellent way of focusing hearts and minds on health and safety.