Employers’ failings put lives of migrant contruction staff at risk

Migrant workers are risking their lives every day on UK construction sites, with many employers failing to check whether they speak English, have the correct skills or the necessary safety equipment to do the work in hand.

The damning findings were made in research  carried out on behalf of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which surveyed 200 migrant workers across different industries in England and Wales.

A number of those surveyed said they had been given no training on how to do their jobs, or on health and safety and how to operate machinery. The majority felt that employers didn’t care about their safety, as long as the job was done.

Only very few of those surveyed said there had been no accidents, either major or minor, at their workplace. None of them had experience of any formal consultation mechanisms for health and safety on site.

However, all workers said they had been given a site induction on health and safety on their first day on site. Generally, larger contractors fared better than smaller companies on safety training provision.

The exact number of migrant workers in construction is difficult to pin down. But an estimated 88,000 non-UK workers, most of them migrant workers, are employed in construction. All are male, mostly from Eastern Europe and mainly in their 20s.

The report found many of those surveyed said no checks were made by employers on whether they could speak English. Worryingly, almost all of those surveyed said they were supervised in English.

The majority said employers did not check their qualifications; most of the work was granted after an appraisal of their work. When it did come to practical tests, English language skills were only occasionally demanded and not of a very high standard.

Many workers were aware of being paid less compared to other UK workers, and were also given the worst and most physically demanding jobs.


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