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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Health and Safety - Don't Leave It Open To Interpretation

By Shiona Oldham

Migration can be a positive issue for a country and especially for business. Due to migration from Poland for example, UK businesses have had access to additional skilled workers and cheaper labour. Some companies state that after cost effectiveness, the main reason they prefer employing migrant workers to their British counterparts is that the migrant workers have a better attitude towards work. All of this makes for good business sense when it comes to employing staff.

Recently though companies are beginning to discover the measures which they must take to protect their new workforces and the risks they may be taking if they don't. For example an Uxbridge based company Ethos Recycling Ltd were recently fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £3000 in costs after one of their Romanian employees who spoke little English lost a leg in a tragic accident at work after having only worked there a couple of weeks, the company pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Zameer Bhunnoo, HSE investigating inspector said: "With the increase of foreign workers in Britain, it is essential that companies who need their skills take care to ensure workers fully understand what is required of them, and how to avoid risks in the workplace'.

Increasing pressure for employer's responsibility towards employees is The Corporate Manslaughter Act (in England and Wales) and The Corporate Homicide Act (in Scotland) which were recently Introduced by the Government. In addition, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have issued a warning to employers to ensure that each member of staff must fully understand health and safety policies and procedures, regardless of whether they speak English or not. Employees must be able to understand policies and procedures fully, if they do not 100% understand written English then these policies and procedures must be provided in a language that they do understand fluently. These new policies reinforce your duty of care toward employees because senior management can be held responsible if it is found that health and safety has been overlooked in any way after an accident.

So which industries are most affected by these new laws? It is the higher risk industries in particular that will have to take note of the warnings, for example the construction industry has seen an increase in the number of overseas workers entering the British labour market. Often these workers will not understand your written health and safety documents and operations manuals. David Bentley-Miller, Managing Director of the national Employment law and Health & safety specialists Bentley Miller Ltd comments that 'It is astonishing how often you see companies who have a state of the art health and safety system which is written in English, then a full Polish workforce who are unable to understand a word!' It is the employer's responsibility to make sure that they receive the necessary training and understand fully.

There are ways that you can ensure that your non fluent-English speaking staff can understand your health and safety documents and one of these is translation, this could be especially useful if you have migrant workers from many different countries in one organisation.

Professional translation companies should only use native speakers to translate their documents, this is to make sure that there are no grammatical or language mistakes or errors that could lead to confusion or misunderstanding. Roy Allkin, Managing Director of leading language services company Wolfestone Translation Ltd adds 'At Wolfestone Translation we only use professionally qualified translators who translate into their mother tongue. So if you need an English health and safety document translated into Polish one of our native speaking Polish translators experienced in this area would carry out the translation. This ensures accuracy across your documents and also ensures full comprehension throughout your work force'.

British law constitutes that once somebody has signed a document the signature confirms that they have read it, having a document translated into your workers native language would give you extra piece of mind that the employee has read and understood.

Translation can be used to translate your website, all of your health and safety documents and training videos. If you cannot 100% guarantee that your employee understands your Health and Safety documents in English then get them translated, It is much cheaper then the alternative of potentially huge fines and the associated legal expenses.

Shiona Oldham

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Shiona_Oldham

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