The board of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme is considering plans to make migrant workers take its health and safety test in English.
Workers applying for CSCS competence cards can take the test in the language of their choice, but the card does not show which was used.
Brian Adams, the chief executive of CSCS, said the scheme’s board was concerned that migrant workers with the card might not be able to understand instructions in English or read health and safety notices.
A report published last month by the Institution of Civil Engineers found that 52% of overseas employees had never been made aware of health and safety regulations.
A 2006 report commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive found that migrant workers in industries including construction suffer more work-related accidents than those from the UK.
The CSCS is now seeking legal advice on whether an English-only test would contravene discrimination law. Adams said: “It’s not about putting barriers up, but it’s right we think about these things. The card would advise employers so they would know where they stand.”
Migrant workers with the card might not be able to read health and safety notices
Brian Adams, CSCS
The Construction Confederation warned that it would want to see proof that poor English was a danger to health and safety before it backed the plan.
A spokesperson said: “If they were taking soundings from us as stakeholders, we would take soundings from our members.”
Adams said CSCS was contacting councils, housing groups and healthcare clients to encourage them to make CSCS cards mandatory on their sites.
Seventy-seven construction workers died in 2006/07. Half the deaths occurred on housing sites.
For more on the background to the cards see www.building.co.uk/archive