I first wrote a version of this post towards the end of 2018. And yet, I still regularly hear discussions about this amongst drone operators in the UK.
I got some clarification direct from the CSCS back then, and I haven't seen anything since that suggests they've changed their policy.
So here's what I believe to be the definitve answer to the question "Do I need a CSCS card to fly a drone at a construction site?".
As a drone operator (or ground photographer) you're regarded as an "Outdoor Media Operative" or operator of "Drones" and, as such, you do not need a CSCS visitors card to access a construction site.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) works with industry to encourage training and to help build a safe, professional and fully qualified workforce.
As part of that mission, there's a card scheme - Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) - which provides proof that the card carrier has the training and qualifications needed for the type of work they carry out.
It's a fairly common misconception that holding a CSCS card is a legislative requirement. It's not. It's entirely up to the principal contractor or client whether workers are required to hold a card before they're allowed on a site. But, most principal contractors and major house builders require construction workers on their sites to hold a valid CSCS card.
As a drone operator, you used to have to carry a Visitors (yellow) CSCS card. But this card's been withdrawn for non-construction related activities. You can read more on the CSCS site but, in essence, it's because CSCS cards are intended for construction related occupations only.
The card withdrawal is fully supported by the Construction Leadership Council's (CLC) announcement that card schemes "carrying the CSCS logo must only certify those occupations with nationally recognised construction related qualifications".
Obviously, site drone and/or ground photography or videography isn't a constriction skill. So it follws that a CSCS card isn't required for drone operators visiting construction sites.
In fact, if you follow the card application process, and enter "Outdoor Media Operative" as your occupation, you'll find it clearly states "your occupation is non-construction related and should be removed from the scheme".
But not everyone's caught up yet
Despite the change in policy, some construction sites still continue to operate a 100% carded workforce policy. And the policy is often reinforced in client’s pre-qualification documents or by head office insisting all workers and visitors to site should carry a CSCS card.
Whatever the site policy, it's always ultimately the responsibility of site managers to induct and escort non-construction site visitors and make sure they remain safe at all times when on site.
So what should you do?
Well as always, common sense prevails. Always contact the site directly to discuss their policy before travelling.