Safety on building sites compromised

Safety on building sites compromised


Language barrier
April 24, 2006
The Daily Telegraph
Copyright 2004 News Limited.

Some migrant workers in the building industry are compromising safety because they do not take compulsory training which are organised done in English. Moreover, their inability to communicate in English makes them venerable to exploitation.

Political groups want tougher English tests, but the relevant authorities say this is not necessary.

- A Univ. of NSW study found that 30% migrant workers avoid compulsory safety training in English.
- In NSW alone, some 50 people die on construction sites.
- The article refers to some actual cases relating to safety issues.

Language Issues:
- Does safety at work imply some kind of duty to learn a language?
- Is it a matter of introducing harder tests or an interest to learn the language in the first place? How do tests guarantee that someone understands complex language instructions? From experience working with learners of English, language tests give a false sense of ability; tests are not meant to guarantee understanding of real life language situations. I believe in language audits, the way one audits money, engineering standards and stock controls.
- Does a lack of interest in learning language skills reflect some kind of general attitude towards work in general and safety standards in particular?
- Is it the duty of the authorities to ensure that workers have the necessary language skills in order to understand safety instructions?
- I suggest that this story is evidence that globalisation must be balanced by a global language. Globalisation is generating global knowledge and information which require a common code (i.e. language).
- Do these workers have at least a moral duty to learn English in order to find out about their work situation? In other words, are they being exploited or are they indifferent to their work conditions?

- Is it the duty of the authorities, or employers, to ensure that workers have the necessary skills to meet safety duties?
- Does it mean that these workers also comprise quality and standards? Presumably, they would have difficulties communicating with English speaking site managers.
- If these workers could prove that they were exploited would they have a legal right for compensation in the future? At least in principle; I’m thinking of the artists in the music industry who were able to challenge their contracts which they signed when they were young and inexperienced.

What would be the consequences if the quality and standards of buildings are also being compromised?

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