Rising numbers of migrant workers pose UK health and safety challenge

The UK is facing increasing challenges in protecting the health and wellbeing of migrant workers, and in making sure overseas staff are aware of their employment rights about safety.

Geoffrey Podger, chief executive of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said the rising numbers of migrant workers in the UK presented a challenge to the regulatory body.

The HSE is now in advanced talks with the Department for Work and Pensions on a draft International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention to regulate the forced labour dimension of migrant working.

Podger told an Institute of Occupational Safety and Health conference that the nature of the risks facing people at work are changing, with issues such as stress becoming a major problem.

He said health and safety regulation needs to balance the care of employees with a practical approach that improves working practices, but warned that too much time is wasted on trivial matters. “The HSE is concerned about the quality of risk management: in particular that too much time is spent by some on trivial risks and unnecessary paperwork and not enough on the serious risks that cause real harm. We are determined to play a leading role in getting the balance right,” he said.

“The regulator has a responsibility to challenge past practice. We cannot simply accept the status quo and live with it. But we can achieve more with a pragmatic approach, addressing things as we find them, and seeking to improve them in practical ways, but also bearing in mind the risk and not overdoing it.”


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