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On-site safety campaign to inform Polish, Indian, Romanian construction workers in London

Research suggests foreign workers are vulnerable to potentially dangerous working practices

Tags: Philip White, Synovate, Simon Hester, Bartek Zdrowowicz,

19th September 2009: Foreign workers do build up trouble for themselves at construction sites. A new research has found they “are vulnerable to potentially dangerous working practices”.
Keeping their safety in view, a campaign has been launched to inform Polish and other foreign construction workers based in London about on-site health and safety. In fact, the Polish community is one of three nationalities receiving advice in particular. The other two are Romanian and newly-arrived Indian construction workers.
Available information suggests the new HSE campaign wants to get the message across to Polish workers about the role of the HSE in helping to protect them using existing law. The intention is also to make them aware that they have just as many rights to a healthy and safe working environment as indigenous workers.
Philip White, HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction, says: “We recognised that we needed to target health and safety information at some of the more vulnerable workers in construction. We have employed specialist outreach representatives from the Polish community to get our messages across much more effectively to London-based workers. Reducing the risks faced by the most vulnerable enables all construction workers to work in safer conditions and we hope will minimise potentially dangerous incidents on site.”
The campaign stems from HSE research into incidents on construction sites that identifies migrant workers as a particularly vulnerable group of construction workers. Carried out by Synovate, the research concluded that migrant workers’ knowledge of UK health and safety standards is limited; HSE is virtually unheard of among migrant construction workers; and the understandable desire by migrant workers to work hard and to stay out of trouble can lead to employers cutting corners on health and safety without being questioned.
The measures aimed at ensuring the safety of workers include employing a Polish outreach worker. Besides this, health and safety information has been produced in different languages. As many as 30,000 wallet-sized cards have been distributed among the community.  A dedicated phone line, online microsite and an email address have been set up. The workers can call 0207-556-2239, email [email protected] or visit www.hse.gov.uk/construction/polski with any queries.
Bartek Zdrowowicz, the outreach worker for the Polish community, says: “Health and safety is just as important for migrants.  Arriving in a foreign country, people may become vulnerable and exposed to different forms of exploitation or possible accidents caused by their completely new conditions of life, or just a language barrier. That is why it is essential to inform them about their rights and duties not only to protect themselves and people they work with, but even further – members of the public as well.”
Adds HSE Project Manager Simon Hester: “We have had a very positive response from everyone we have talked to in the Polish community so far. Our aim is a rapid and clear change in workers’ understanding of their rights and how to make complaints.”  

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