SMSTS - A Complete Guide to Site Management Safety Training Scheme


2018 Changes to CITB Site Safety Plus scheme rules

Please note that CITB have made some significant changes to their main Site Safety Plus courses which supersede some of the details in our guide below.

You can read about the key changes here: CITB Site Safety Plus Scheme Rules - Changes for 2018.


In this guide, we are going to reveal everything you need to know about the Site Management Safety Scheme (SMSTS) and the Site Management Safety Training Scheme Refresher (SMSTS-R). These are two courses that are crucial for site managers across the UK. With over 30 per cent of fatal work injuries in the UK occurring in the construction industry, there is no denying that improved health and safety is required.

The SMSTS course covers all legislation that impacts safe working in civil engineering, construction and building industries. It was established to instruct potential site managers and current site managers, enabling them to develop an understanding, awareness and knowledge of their social, moral and legal responsibilities regarding health, safety and welfare on construction sites.

It highlights the need to maintain an effective health and safety culture through adequate communication, implementing necessary control measures, and conducting regular workplace risk assessments. Unlike a lot of other health and safety courses, the SMSTS course is a step-by-step programme featuring both engaging and practical guidance with a key focus on construction.

Below, we are going to take you through the course in further detail, including who it is for, the content that is covers, how you will be assessed, example questions and exercises, and what you will achieve by the end of it. We will also take a look at the SMSTS refresher course, SMSTS-R.

Course aims and objectives of an SMSTS Course

The SMSTS course aims to help supervisors, agents and managers to do the following:

  • Recognise that a safe site is productive, economical and efficient.
  • Be accountable and have an understanding of the responsibilities required for health, safety and welfare on site.
  • Manage health and safety on site within the context of your supervisory or management role and in accordance with the legal provisions in place at present.

By the end of the SMSTS training course, delegates should be aware of the following and be able to:

  • State their responsibilities and duties when it comes to health, safety, welfare and the environment.
  • Implement industry best practice and new guidance.
  • Implement all health, safety, welfare and environmental legislation that is going to impact you during your day-to-day work.

Who is SMSTS suitable for?

This course is designed for site managers, as well as project managers, business proprietors, and supervisors. Client-based personnel can also benefit from attending such a course. If you already have responsibilities for planning, controlling, monitoring, organising and administering groups of staff, then the SMSTS is a must.

In fact, it is a standard entry-level requirement for most construction firms. You do not need to be an experienced manager to take this type of course. It is also suitable for those who aren't yet in such a position but have aims of becoming a site manager in the future. There are NO formal entry requirements for this course. In fact, it can significantly help to boost your CV.

I've heard about the SSSTS course, is this something I should take instead?

You may have heard about the SSSTS course, and are wondering whether this is the better option for you. SSSTS stands for Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme. This is a course that is designed for first appointment supervisors or anyone that is looking to take up a management role in construction for the first time.

This course is classroom-based and will last two days. It aims to explain the importance of adhering to recent codes of practice, legal responsibilities, the need for control measures, and why it is vital to carry out effective risk assessments. In this course, the key message is that clear health and safety policies and good communication are a must for any supervisor. This course is not as advanced as the SMSTS course, and is not adequate if you are responsible for managing a construction workforce.

Let's take a look at the difference between the two qualifications in further detail:

Both qualifications require a refresher course. The SMSTS refresher course enables you to use your qualification for another five years, after which you will need to take another refresher course. This covers new issues in the construction industry and all of the newest developments in the law. The SSSTS qualification simply requires you to take a refresher course to ensure your qualification remains valid. It enables you to update your knowledge. However, the main differences between the two courses do not lie within their structure, but rather in their content. While they both cover health and safety in the construction environment, they have a different focus.

The SSSTS course is focused on boosting the understanding and awareness of managers, highlighting why good practice is required and what it is. On the other hand, the CITB SMSTS course is more focused on regulations and the law, highlighting the practices that the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have highlighted. Another difference comes with the way the courses are evaluated.

The SMSTS course is evaluated via a series of individual and group-based exercises, as well as an examination. The SSSTS course is simply evaluated by a 30-minute examination, which contains multiple-choice questions. When choosing between the two courses, you really need to think about your career and where you see yourself going. Don't convince yourself to take the SSSTS course simply because you feel it sounds a lot easier. If you are going to be working as a manager, you are going to need the SMSTS certificate if you are to be qualified in your role, so you really cannot afford to cut corners.

The benefits of taking an SMSTS course

There are many benefits to gain by taking a CITB SMSTS course. Let's take a look at them in further detail:


There are many general health and safety courses that are available, but there aren't any that are tailored with site managers in mind. This means that in this course you will learn about the common problems and risks that site managers experience specifically. SMSTS course content is designed so that all of the elements you are going to need to address on-site have been covered.


Being SMSTS certified is a great way to boost your CV and benefit from improved job opportunities. The vast majority of construction companies will ask for this as a standard entry-level requirement. This mean that you are unlikely to be allowed to work on a site if you are not SMSTS certified.


The SMSTS qualification is one of the most highly-respected and regarded qualifications that are available for those who are responsible for the management of construction activities, including facilities, building maintenance and construction maintenance. It is recognised by the UKCG (United Kingdom Contractors Group) and endorsed by the CITB. Once you have this qualification, you will be acknowledged as having achieved a specific level of competence in health and safety.


SMSTS courses last five days and it is up to you whether you want to opt for a day release course or if you would prefer for the course to be carried out as a full five-day working week consecutive block. Despite what some training providers may tell you, it is not possible to take an SMSTS online course. All courses are classroom-based and an SMSTS course online will not be valid.


A compulsory SMSTS refresher course may not sound like good fun, but it is a great benefit. It means that you can ensure you are up to date with the latest rules, regulations, and practices. It also enables you to maintain your qualification for a long time, which will require less effort and less money when compared with having to do a different qualification from scratch.

Why businesses should only take on SMSTS trained employees and ensure their employees have this qualification

It is vital that health and safety regulations are adhered to in the workplace, especially in the construction industry, as it is a dangerous environment when compared with other types of work. Wrong decisions can impact the quality of people's lives, and you can reduce the chance of this happening and protect your workers by ensuring all site managers are SMSTS accredited.

Once your supervisors and managers have attained their qualification, you can be certain that they will implement high health and safety standards, and this will ultimately ensure a safe workplace for your clientele and the rest of your employees. All SMSTS courses demand full attendance and participants will need to pass an assessment, so you can be sure the CITB Site Safety Plus certificate is not given lightly.

Only those who have a good understanding of all potential health and safety risks and how to mitigate them will be awarded a certificate. Also, the fact that there is a refresher course, which is compulsory, means that your employees will always be up to date with the very latest in health and safety.

Course specification

As mentioned, there is no such thing as a valid SMSTS online course. The SMSTS training course is classroom-based and is held over five days. It covers the following areas:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act
  • Confined spaces
  • Demolition
  • Scaffolding
  • Working at height
  • Excavations
  • Electricity
  • Management of occupational health
  • Behavioural safety
  • Recent changes in accepted working practices
  • Method statements and risk assessments
  • Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations

These are the main areas you will cover during the course, and there are many different subject fields within each one.

Any SMSTS training course will start with an introduction into health and safety law, enforcement, responsibilities, duties and sanctions, as well as explaining CDM regulations and any other relevant legislation. Once the regulations have been established, you will then learn about various accident causes, as well as advice on preventing such incidents, the cost of an accident, how to investigate it, and reporting systems to use.

Your tutor will also inform you about the different types of safety management policies and systems you can implement at your business while also providing you with guidance on how to measure safety systems to ensure they are performing well. Aside from this, you will learn about communicating efficiently to ensure safety, as well as how to manage contractors, and you will delve into behavioural science, for instance, being aware of human error. Your tutor will encourage you to motivate good safety behaviour and they will explain your responsibilities and duties as a construction site manager.

How is the SMSTS course assessed?

The CITB SMSTS course is assessed in two ways: exercises and an exam.


The first part of the assessment is four individual and team-based exercises that are carried out throughout the course. These are as follows:

  1. Implementing health and safety legislation
  2. Supervisors' and managers' responsibilities
  3. Site briefing
  4. Site layout

You will need to show that you understand the course's main elements throughout these core exercises. Please note that these are merely the suggested exercises to use. The training provider may decide to choose different types of exercises based on what they feel is the most appropriate for the people they have on the SMSTS course at that time. For these exercises to be carried out, those on the course will be provided with a case study. This will give you a basis for the day-to-day working environment. The case study will be chosen based on those in attendance. At present, the case studies that are available for these exercises are as follows:

  1. Factory and ancillary buildings
  2. House building
  3. Civil engineering
  4. Demolition
  5. Refurbishment
  6. New roads and street works

A closer look at what the exercises entail…

Now that you are aware of how the SMSTS course is assessed, let's take a look at the exercises in further detail, as you may feel a bit apprehensive regarding what they entail. As mentioned, 'Exercise 1' is to implement health and safety legislation, so we are going to take you through this as an example. The purpose of this exercise is to give delegates the ability to develop ideas on the definition and implementation of health, safety and welfare, and how this will impact all duty-holders, from suppliers to the client. So, what does this exercise entail? For this task, you will be split into a small group, typically of five to six delegates. One person will be appointed as the leader. Each group will be appointed an employee category that has duties under the current legislation, for example, the client or self-employed. You will then have to carry out a series of tasks to demonstrate your confidence. The first task involves answering the following questions:

  1. Describe and define your designated category
  2. Identify their general health and safety duties in line with the applicable regulations
  3. Where and with home does the responsibility lie for making sure that those duties are carried out?

The second task, which needs to be completed as part of this exercise, is split into two parts. These are as follows:

  1. Groups need to get together to progress their ideas on methods for controlling and measuring health and safety performance in their category. At the initial stage, uncritical brainstorming is advised. This should then be following by carefully analysing the ideas that have been provided, so you can determine the measures that your group deems realistic and valid for health and safety performance monitoring.
  2. The second part of this task is for the findings to be presented to the course. The group leader will have this role. At this stage, a discussion will take place for the purpose of generating useful modifications.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding what the four core exercises are going to be like. The exercise mentioned above is generally assessed based on the following weightings - 10 per cent of the marks awarded are for information provided, 50 per cent of the marks are for comprehension, and 40 per cent of the marks are for application.


The second part of the assessment is the SMSTS test, which you will take at the very end of the SMSTS 5-day course. The exam paper consists of 25 multiple-choice questions that will cover all aspects of the course. You will have 30 minutes to complete this paper. Don't leave the exam early - spend as much time as you can. The pass mark for the examination is 72 per cent.

Please note that you will be permitted to use the XA6 Course Notes and the Construction Site Safety (GE700) publication for the last ten minutes of the examination period. For this reason, it is advisable to spend 20 minutes answering the questions, and then give yourself ten minutes to check over the paper at the end or look for answers to questions you are struggling with.

Some examples of multiple-choice SMSTS test questions…

With regards to The Construction, Design & Management Regulations 2015, which document needs to be given to the client once you have completed a project?

  • The Health and Safety file
  • The construction phase plan
  • The maintenance and operation manual
  • The pre-tender health and safety file

Which one of the following substances is not hazardous?

  • Allergen
  • Toxic
  • Carcinogen
  • Irritant

What action does a site manager need to take if an operative, whom is deaf, is brought on site to work with a contractor?

  • Refuse to let the operative on site
  • Make sure the operative has a CSCS card and that they are fully qualified for the job
  • Ensure another operative observes all of the tasks
  • Make sure the contractor has carried out risk assessments for all of the tasks the deaf person needs to carry out

Under RIDDOR, which person is responsible for reporting to the HSE a specified injury that an employee has sustained?

  • The injured person
  • The CDM co-ordinator
  • The principal contractor
  • The injured person's employer

What do the five days of the course look like?

Of course, all SMSTS training providers have different ways of doing things, so please treat the below as merely a general guide:


Day one will begin with all of the necessary administration. After which, you will be introduced to the course and the aims, objectives and expectations of the course will be explained. After this, a lot of SMSTS training providers will elect to carry out a questionnaire so they can understand what you know already. Don't worry about this - it is not a test. It is merely designed to enable the trainer to determine whether they need to set additional work or not.

Once all of this is done, the learning begins! You will be introduced to key health and safety figures in the UK, as well as the Health and Safety at Work Act and other important regulations. The day will end with a look at your responsibilities as site manager, and 'Exercise 1' will be carried out. At the end of the day, the tutor will review everything and set reading preparation for the following day.


Day two will begin with a discussion about 'Exercise 1' from the previous day, with feedback given out. The tutor will then move onto the management of contractors, covering everything from PPE to duty holder's roles and responsibilities to the relationship between the client, principal contractor and principal designer. They will also teach you about the working environment and ensuring it is a safe place to be.

This will naturally lead into Work at Height Regulations, and health and safety management for plant, equipment and systems of work. 'Exercise 2' will then take place, followed by a review of the day and homework set for day three.


Similarly to day two, day three will begin with an overview of the exercise carried out the previous day. You will be given feedback regarding your performance in 'Exercise 2'. The tutor will then move onto managing construction health risk, including controlling physical ill-health risks and hazardous substances.

They will also explain health and safety monitoring options, including accident reporting and investigation, as well as inspections, surveys, tours, and health and safety auditing. 'Exercise 3' will then take place, followed by a review of the day and reading setting in preparation for the next day.


You will be introduced to the SMSTS course content that is going to be taught on day four, and you will be given feedback regarding 'Exercise 3' carried out the day before. The tutor will then delve into the field of co-operation and communication, which includes your duty to provide information, instruction and training.

They will then move onto construction healthy and safety, covering everything from confined spaces and fire prevention to highly flammable liquids and underground services. You will then carry out the final task, 'Exercise 4'. The day will be reviewed and, again, homework will be set in preparation for the next day.


You have now reached the final day of the SMSTS course in Glasgow, London or wherever you may be taking it. The tutor will begin with some final revision in preparation for the end of course examination, which you will take on this day. After this, they will debrief exercise four, and you will have a discussion on how it went.

The tutor will then wrap up the course - this involves reviewing objectives and aims, finding out whether the course met your objectives effectively, completing feedback forms, and finalising course paperwork.

Qualifications and certification

If you pass the course, you will be awarded a CITB Site Safety Plus certificate and whilst there is no specific SMSTS card, you can list your qualification on your CSCS application, so you'll be able to prove you have the competency in this respect. However, please note that you will need to attend a refresher course every five years to renew your qualification.

Choosing an SMSTS course

There is a lot to consider when choosing a CITB SMSTS course. This includes the following:


It is important to find out what you are actually going to experience from the five-day training course. What this means is, you should have a schedule for each day. You also need to know whether you are going to benefit from course materials or whether you need to invest in textbooks and alike.


How long is the course going to last? Will it be taught in a block of several days or will it be spread out over numerous weeks?


No matter whether you are looking for SMSTS courses in London or SMSTS courses in Glasgow or anywhere else in the UK, location is important. Check out public transport routes and make sure you can get there with ease.


You need to make sure that the course provider has a good reputation in the industry. Take the time to read reviews that have been left by those that have gone on the course before. What did they have to say about it? Did they achieve their CITB SMSTS qualification? Did they find the tutors helpful? This is the only way to get the answers to the questions you really want to know.


Pass rates are of paramount importance when choosing a training provider. You need to make sure that they are successful at what they do. If a course provider does not have a very good pass rate, you need to ask yourself why.

Could it be because they aren't that great at providing the training? After all, not everyone that walks through their doors is going to be bad!


Of course, price is a pivotal consideration when booking any type of training course. Whether you need to fund the SMSTS 5-day course or your business is going to do so is something you will need to discuss with them. If the former applies, do not make the error of choosing the cheapest course you can find. It will only end up costing you a lot more in the long run when you are not equipped for the assessment.

Make sure you are aware of what is included in the price, i.e. this includes lunch and refreshments during the course, registration and certification, and the cost of publications.


Most course providers will have numerous tutors, and you may want to do a little bit of research regarding the tutor that is going to be taking your course. The best way to determine their level of quality is to look for reviews that reference the tutor in particular. You may find such feedback on the course provider's website or via an independent review platform.

You should also look at the experience and qualifications the tutor has, both in regard to working in the industry and teaching. Please note that to provide SMSTS training, tutors must not only be SMSTS certified, but they must have one of the following qualifications:

  • DipSM Level 6
  • NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health Part 2 / NEBOSH Units A, B, C & D
  • A Health and Safety degree
  • NVQ/SVQ Level 5 in Occupational Health and Safety
  • NEBOSH National Certificate in Construction Safety and Health


Find out the course's policy in regard to cancellations and rescheduling. This is especially important if there is a high chance you may need to change the date of your course due to work commitments.

Site Management Safety Training Scheme Refresher (SMSTS-R)

There is also a course that is available for those who have already passed the Site Manager Safety Training Scheme. This is a refresher course that is designed to bring you up to date with the latest legislative changes. After all, workplace health and safety regulations are changing all of the time. You are required to take this course every five years to renew your SMSTS qualification, or it will expire.

SMSTS refresher courses only last two days, and so they are quicker to complete than the initial course. The Site Management Safety Training Scheme Refresher (SMSTS-R) will build on the material that was provided in the original course while also introducing new subjects.

By the end of the course, you will be able to fulfil your responsibilities and duties with regards to welfare, health, safety and the environment. You will also have no trouble implementing new guidance and industry best practice, as well as the updated legislation regarding health, safety, welfare and the environment, which impacts your management role.

Please note: Prior to 01 January 2016, there was a six-month period of grace in place for those with an expired SMSTS certificate. This period of grace no longer exists, so you should never let your SMSTS certificate run out without having taken the necessary SMSTS refresher course.


Hopefully, We Do Training has given you a thorough understanding of both the Site Management Safety Scheme (SMSTS) and the Site Management Safety Training Scheme Refresher (SMSTS-R). Both courses are critical for site managers.

You may think you only need to achieve your SMSTS, and then forget about it. However, legislation and industry practices are changing all the time, so you need to keep in the know if you are to continue to provide a safe and healthy working environment for staff and protect the public.