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An Olympic Challenge

As London basks in the glow of hosting the Olympics, it has gone out of its way to look after our international visitors. Olympic Ambassadors seem to be everywhere – advising and helping our international guests to get the best out of both the Games and London. It only a shame that there appear to be some employers who are not willing to do the same for our other army of international visitors, the 5.7% of the workforce that is made up of non EU nationals most of whom work in the 3D jobs – dirty, demanding and dangerous.

The HSE highlight in their report on migrant workers (RR502), that there are no precise numbers for migrant workers, nor is there any specific method for identifying whether or not they face any specific risks. However, interviews of over 200 such workers suggest that up to a third will receive no formal Health and Safety training and the remainder only little more and as a result, there is a widespread lack of knowledge of basic health and safety including fire safety.

More worryingly, those working with chemicals had little knowledge of what they were working with or the associated risks and up to 25% admitted to having been involved in or having witnessed an accident. This does suggest a higher level of incidence than for EU workers. Underreporting may well be a serious issue; many said that they did not report incidents concerned that their employers would see them as a risk and would dismiss them. Coupled with this low level of knowledge of their rights was an underlying perception that they alone were responsible for their own health and safety and that their employer had little or no responsibility.

The UK prides itself in being among the leaders in the development and application of health and safety legislation, systems and processes. The success of the Olympic Delivery Authority in delivering the safest capital building project ever will become a case study for many. Should there ever be a Health and Safety Olympics, I have no doubt that the UK would head the medal tables. Is it not shameful, therefore, that in a country which prides itself on leading the way in health and safety, that nearly 6% of our workers may not be getting the same level of protection that the rest of us consider our right?

Brian Nimick, IIRSM Chief Executive

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