Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
March 2, 2012

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

A picture paints a thousand words for migrant workers in construction

Deaths and injuries among migrant workers in the construction industry could be reduced if pictures were used in safety training, according to research released by IOSH.

The project, commissioned by the Institution and carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), reveals that migrant workers’ understanding of building-site health and safety improves when images are used in training.

HSE statistics show that migrant workers in the construction sector are more likely to be fatally injured than those native to the UK. Just 6 per cent of Britain’s 2.3 million construction workers are migrants, yet they account for 17 per cent of work-related deaths in that sector. Between April 2005 and March 2008, 25 foreign workers were killed in the UK construction industry.

As part of the IOSH-commissioned project GCU senior research fellow Billy Hare instructed health and safety training to be delivered to more than 80 migrant workers across four construction sites in London and Manchester. He used a combination of sketch drawings, pictograms and photos to translate the safety message. Test scores showed that the trainees’ knowledge levels from pictorial images were always higher, some increasing by 20 per cent.

Consequently, IOSH is urging construction companies to include illustrations as standard in their safety training sessions. Said its executive director of policy, Dr Luise Vassie: “Despite the fact employers have a legal duty to make safety information understandable to all employees, these figures show that some construction companies can do more to make sure staff whose first language isn’t English know how to stay safe on-site.

“We’d urge construction companies to take this on and we’d also encourage management to consider this worker group more when looking at their health and safety systems.”

Billy Hare conceded that employers are increasingly putting measures such as translated instructions and multilingual supervisors in place, but pointed out that this could actually do more harm than good. He explained: “Companies need to do more than just translate health and safety training into their workers’ first languages. Doing this alone can actually lead companies into a false sense of security because many workers – whatever their country of origin – have literacy issues.

“We can’t assume that everyone is able to read instructions, so pictures overcome these issues and enhance what already exists.”

Related Topics

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago

A very good point
One of the sites I work on has a multi-national workforce. Pictures have realy helped us promote safety & overcome any literacy issues. Learning to say a few words in a couple of eastern european languages has helped me break down barriers too. HSE’s & EU-OSHA’s multi lingual info sheets & Toolbox talks have been invaluable. The same TBT given in English Polish, Rumanian,Latvian, Punjabi & other languages by bi-lingual supervisors ensures consistancy of approach to safety.