Protecting migrant workers a must - Norwich Union

Article date: 8 September 2006

Deaths involving workers from the expanded EU means UKbusinesses need to be extra vigilant about risk management formigrant staff, according to Norwich Union.

The warning follows figures published recently by the Health andSafety Commission (HSE) showing that of the 59 workers who died inthe construction industry last year five were migrant Polishworkers.

Norwich Union has launched a special “Migrant Workers”section on its Risk Manager web site – at helping brokers and their clients to understand and tacklethe issues.

Phil Grace, Norwich Union’s casualty risk manager, says:“The employment of foreign workers is not something to beundertaken without full consideration of the possible additionalrisks involved. Migrant workers are at an automatic disadvantagebecause of language and cultural barriers.

“Foreign workers employed in the UK enjoy the same protectionas UK workers and have the same rights and responsibilities. So,risk assessments and the resulting actions must take the differentlanguages and cultures of these new workers intoaccount.”

Grace has identified some of the most pressing risks involvingimmigrant workers, including:

  • Language: foreign workers with a limited command of Englishmay not understand fully safety briefings or training. Languagetraining should be considered essential, especially if theemployment is expected to be permanent.
  • Interpreters: where possible, an interpreter should beavailable to facilitate conversations between employers andmigrant employees.
  • Training: videos, lectures or computer-based training will beof limited use to those without the necessary languageskills.
  • Signage: despite many warning sign images being universal,some which carry additional text – such as electricalequipment showing a “next inspection date” message– are unlikely to be understood. Ideally, there should besigns written in workers’ native languages.
  • Written material: risk assessments, operating instructions andworking procedures should be translated into the appropriatelanguage(s). The HSE and TUC have both prepared material in anumber of foreign languages. Still, consideration should be givento creating bespoke documentation for a particular task orindustry sector.


For further information, please contact:

Jon Clements or Jo Brearley on 0161 919 8495 or Sally Leeman atNorwich Union on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to editors:
Norwich Union is the UK’slargest general insurer with a market share of around 14%, with afocus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment productsand one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAsprovide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in theUK.

Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of images areavailable from Aviva's internet press centre at

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