HSE Launches Campaign to Educate Polish Construction Workers about Safety

Sept. 23, 2009
On Sept. 18, Great Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a campaign to inform Polish construction workers based in London about on-site health and safety.

The new campaign was designed to educate Polish and other migrant workers about HSE’s role in protecting them in the workplace. The campaign also strives to make these workers aware that they have just as many rights to a healthy and safe working environment as indigenous workers.

“We recognized that we needed to target health and safety information at some of the more vulnerable workers in construction,” said Philip White, HSE’s chief inspector of 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 minimize potentially dangerous incidents on site.”

The campaign stems from HSE research that indicates migrant workers are a particularly vulnerable group of construction workers. The research concluded that:

  • Migrant workers’ knowledge of U.K. health and safety standards is limited.
  • HSE is virtually unheard of among migrant construction workers.
  • 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.

As part of the campaign, HSE employs a Polish outreach worker and has produced health and safety information in Polish and other languages, including 30,000 wallet-sized cards that will be distributed among the community. A dedicated phone line, a Web site and an e-mail address ([email protected]) have been established to answer workers’ questions.

“Health and safety is just as important for migrants,” said Bartek Zdrowowicz, an outreach worker for the Polish community. “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.”

Simon Hester, the HSE project manager, added, “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.”

In addition to Polish workers, HSE also is specifically advising Romanian and newly arrived Indian construction workers.

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