New figures reveal that migrant workers in the UK construction sector are much more likely to be injured or killed in the workplace

Migrant workers are more likely to be killed in the workplace than their colleagues from the UK with the construction sector having the worst record on migrant worker safety, new figures revealed.

The figures show that migrant workers employed in the construction sector are at least twice as likely to die at work as those from the UK.

A dozen migrant workers died in the construction industry in the year 2007/08 – at least double the figure expected and a six-fold increase in the number who died just five years earlier.

The 12 deaths comprised 17% of the total number of fatalities in the sector last year. But the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that migrant workers make up only 8% of the total construction sector workforce.

Migrant deaths in other sectors are also on the increase, with the number of fatalities of non-UK workers up from nine in 2005/6 to 18 in 2007/8. Official figures show that only 5.4% of the total workforce comprises migrants.

No official information is currently available on the level of injuries to migrant workers.

The research was carried out by the Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA) and published by Irwin Mitchell.

The issue of migrant worker safety shot to public prominence with the deaths of 21 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004 but Irwin Mitchell is now calling on the HSE and the Government to do more to ensure the safety of non-UK employees.

The CCA also called for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, established after the Morecambe Bay incident, to be extended to cover the construction sector.

Colin Ettinger, partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘The HSE has taken a greater interest in this issue but it’s clear from this report that more work and resource is needed.’

Grazyna Trybala, wife of Janusz Trybala, who died while at work on a Waste Energy Plant in Maidstone, Kent, in July 2005, said: ‘I wish that employers would pay as much attention to the health and safety of their employees as they pay to results of their work. The constant pressure of achieving best results, improper work management, not taking health and safety regulations seriously result in tragic situations.’

The report also found that:

Workers dying over a seven-year period came from 24 different countries, the majority from Eastern Europe: 16 from Poland, and two each from Ukraine, Romania and the Cezch Republic

Most died in the construction sector, with 24 fatalities, along with 11 in the services sector and six in agriculture.

None of the cases which have reached inquest have resulted in unlawful killing verdicts, with the majority (28) recording an accidental death verdict

Over two-fifths (44%) of the deaths studied led to prosecutions – higher than the UK average of 30%, which the report concludes may be due to employers in these cases being guilty of more culpable failures.