Most migrant construction workers in London and the South-east have no knowledge of health and safety rights and obligations as they receive no training in these matters before coming to the UK.

The survey by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), compiled through interviews with migrant workers, employers, trade unions and health and safety officials, said 52% of employees from overseas had never been made aware of health and safety regulations in their homelands.

The report, published this week, comes shortly after industry representatives gave evidence on migrant workers to parliament’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform select committee.

Alan Ritchie, Ucatt’s general secretary, said 250,000 people had left the Polish construction industry and most had come to the UK. He said they were largely employed by agencies and many endured poor working conditions. Some said they had to use beds vacated by workers on other shifts and there were cases of assaults on union officials by gangmasters.

The ICE report found that 70% of migrant workers had no previous experience of the construction industry. One construction manager told the ICE: “When I asked a subcontractor for slingers or signallers he would send a worker on a course for four days then send them to site. One worker had no appreciation of work on a site and couldn’t be understood on the radio.”

ICE is calling for a co-ordinated approach across construction

Charles Clarke, Ice

The ICE has suggested the creation of a single body to support the health and safety of migrant construction workers in London and the South-east.

Charles Clarke, an ICE representative, said: “We are calling for a co-ordinated approach across the industry.”

In the London area the report found that 85% of general labourers, 44% of trades workers and 22% of specialist workers were migrants.

The report said many workers did not realise they had any responsibility for managing their own health and safety or understood their rights and responsibilities under the law.