International Worker's Memorial Day | Ufi Charitable Trust

International Worker's Memorial Day

Blog by FlashAcademy®.

Every year, tragically more workers are killed at work than in wars (See TUC article). As today marks International Worker’s Memorial Day (28th April), the coronavirus pandemic is a stark reminder of the important role of trade union health and safety reps in saving and protecting workers’ lives.

Migrant key workers are at the forefront of the Covid-19 response, both here in the UK and worldwide. As with all key workers, they are essential to our societies and economies, not just in times of crisis, but always. However, according to a report from Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Corporate Accountability (2009), a disproportionate number of migrant workers are killed in work-related accidents. Specifically, in the construction industry where workers are at a higher risk of accidents than any other industry in the UK (Craw et al., 2007), migrant workers are twice as likely to die than those from the UK. 

Although there is little data to explain the reasons behind this, one factor is likely to be limited English language communication skills. If migrant workers have low English proficiency, they may not fully understand health and safety training or instructions they are given. They may not communicate effectively with supervisors or colleagues, which can result in dangerous work-related errors. Injuries of migrant workers often go unrecorded as they may return to their home countries for treatment rather than report the incident.  

Cultural issues can also have an impact, as some workers believe that if they report an accident or a near miss then this will be used to assign blame, and do not realise that this is part of a process to prevent accidents in the future. Another cultural factor could be that workers are used to seeing accidents as a natural part of life and prioritise getting the job done over getting the job done safely. In some cultures, questioning people in positions of authority is not accepted, so migrant workers may be reluctant to ask for clarification if they do not understand an instruction. Similarly, they sometimes try to hide low levels of English for fear of losing their jobs. These misperceptions can be addressed by ensuring that migrant workers have access to trade union guidance and know their rights as workers.  

Official guidance from the HSE is that employers have a duty to provide comprehensible information to workers. They also advise implementing ESOL provisions, either in the workplace itself or in collaboration with local providers. In addition to reduced communication difficulties, the benefits of helping workers to learn English include higher productivity and retention rates, which are vital in the current climate of uncertainty surrounding the employment of migrant workers in the future under the new points system. 

A science park EdTech team, Learning Labs, have developed a new mobile app to help employers tackle this issue and keep more migrant workers safe in the workplace.   

FlashAcademy’s Workplace platform gives users the essential vocabulary they need to understand health and safety training, as well as the language to communicate with colleagues and supervisors regarding other essential workplace topics. FlashAcademy supports vocabulary learning using photographic images and allows users to learn from 20 different home languages, including Romanian, Polish, Latvian, Cantonese and Dutch. The app can be used flexibly, at work with others, or at home independently, using digital technology to maximise language learning opportunities without requiring workplaces to release workers for a set period of time to attend classes. Supervisors can easily see the English proficiency levels of their workers and make decisions regarding necessary extra provisions and precautions, such as whether or not it may be necessary to assign workers a higher English proficiency ‘buddy’ who speaks the same home language. 

CEO of Learning Labs, Veejay Lingiah, commented:

In these challenging times, it’s even more critical that we use the power and flexibility of technology to keep our workforces safe. The FlashAcademy Workplace app can potentially be used in any sector: food manufacturing, logistics, healthcare – to help ensure any migrant workers have the level of technical English proficiency needed to be safe and successful in their roles.

For more information about the new FlashAcademy app to support employers with migrant workforces, visit: https://flashacademy.com/workplace/