Northern Ireland

NI builders losing work over cross-border safety issue

Building site
Image caption Workers require safety qualifications to operate machinery such as cranes and diggers

Northern Ireland construction workers are calling for political intervention to solve a cross-border problem involving health and safety training.

They say their qualifications - or cards - are often no longer being accepted to allow them onto sites in the Republic of Ireland.

Brendan Crealey, who runs courses for builders in Portadown, feels Northern Ireland firms are being disadvantaged.

He called for "mutual recognition sorted out at political level".

Image caption Brendan Crealey feels Northern Ireland firms are being disadvantaged

Workers require safety qualifications to operate machinery such as cranes and diggers.

'Bureaucracy'

The construction sector north and south runs similar schemes - but workers have said only cards issued in the Republic of Ireland are being accepted across the whole island.

"All the machines are the same, the course content is the same, it is just a bit of bureaucracy," said Malcolm Keys of Mills Contracts in County Tyrone.

Image caption The construction sector north and south runs similar safety schemes

"You cannot draw a line across a road and say a guy is competent to operate a machine on one side and not the other."

He said Northern Ireland firms are frequently not tendering for contracts across the border as it involves paying for much the same safety training they have already had.

Image caption Malcolm Keys said "all the machines are the same, the course content is the same, it is just a bit of bureaucracy"

Gordon Best, of the trade body the Quarry Products Association, said the construction sector intends bringing the issue to the economy committee at Stormont early this year.

"Over the last number of months there has been a tighter interpretation of regulations in the south," he said.

"I know a number of road contractors who have had workers put off sites."