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Health and Safety for Seasonal and Temporary Workers

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Health and Safety for Seasonal and Temporary Workers

It is vital that employers protect the health and safety of gig economy, agency and temporary workers. Workers are likely to have an accident in their first 6 months at work, as during the whole of the rest of their working life. This increased risk is because of:

  • Lack of experience of working in a new industry or workplace
  • Being unfamiliar with the job and the work environment
  • Not wanting to raise concerns and not knowing how to
  • Eagerness to impress workmates and managers

This means that workers new to a workplace may:

  • Not recognise hazards as a potential source of danger
  • Not understand ‘obvious’ rules for equipment use
  • Not be familiar with site layout – especially where site hazards may change from day to day
  • Ignore warning signs and rules, or cut corners

Gig economy, agency and temporary workers

Agency workers

This term commonly refers to individuals who are supplied by an employment agency to work for another employer (the ‘end user’ or ‘principal’). In this case, the employment agency is a recruitment agency and once they have introduced the worker to an employer the relationship between the worker and the agency ends. The employer has responsibility for the worker’s health and safety in the same way as for any employee.

If an employment business places a worker for short periods of work with an employer (end user) but the worker remains under a contractual relationship with the employment business, then the guidance for temporary workers applies.

Gig economy workers

Gig economy work is mainly characterised by short-term working relationships. It can be non-standard, casual, unpredictable, irregular and temporary.

Gig economy workers have some potential to exercise flexibility around the work they commit to and when it is performed. However, the online platforms also have potential to impose degrees of control over how gig economy workers perform their work.

Limb (b) workers

Limb (b) describes workers who generally have a more casual employment relationship and work under a contract for service.

Temporary employees

A business might recruit workers directly for short periods of time without using a third-party agency. This could include taking on additional retail staff during busy summer or festive periods, or taking on administrative staff to meet short term increases in work.

In such cases, the recruited worker is an employee, and the business is their employer and has responsibility for their health and safety in the same way as for all their employees.

If you are a gig, agency or temporary worker then your health and safety is protected by law and employment businesses/agencies have a duty to make sure that they follow it.

You have health and safety responsibilities too:

  • You have a duty to take reasonable care for your own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by your actions at work.
  • You must co-operate with your employment business and the end user where you are working, including participating in any necessary health and safety training and instruction,
  • It is your responsibility to use any machinery or equipment provided in line with the training you receive, and to inform the person that provided the equipment or machinery if it is lost or damaged

Six steps to protect new starters

Capability

Assess the new starter’s capabilities. This might include:

  • literacy and numeracy levels
  • general health
  • relevant work experience
  • physical capability to do the job
  • familiarity with the work being done and the working environment (especially where conditions change quickly, for example on construction sites)

Don’t forget to assess cultural issues and grasp of English where relevant – you may need to use visual, non-verbal methods like pictures, signs or videos.

Induction 

Provide an induction. Plan it carefully, including photos of hazards where possible, and use plain, simple language.

Take time to walk around the workplace or site with new workers and show them where the main hazards are, like falls and slips.

Induction 

Provide an induction. Plan it carefully, including photos of hazards where possible, and use plain, simple language.

Take time to walk around the workplace or site with new workers and show them where the main hazards are, like falls and slips.

Control measures

Make sure control measures to protect against risk are up to date. Check they are being properly used and maintained by:

  • having discussions with employees and health and safety representatives about risk and how to make sure new starters are protected
  • highlighting how important it is to report accidents and near misses
  • making necessary arrangements for health surveillance
  • providing and maintaining suitable personal protective equipment

Information

Provide relevant information, instruction and training about the risks new workers may be exposed to and the precautions they will need to take to avoid them.

Supervision

Provide adequate supervision. Make sure workers know how to raise concerns. Supervisors should be aware that workers may find it difficult to raise concerns because of unfamiliarity and inexperience.

Check understanding

Check workers have understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely, and are acting on it. This is important during the vital first days and weeks at work.

Make sure workers know:

  • who to speak to
  • how to raise concerns about their health and safety
  • about any emergency arrangements or procedures

Vulnerable Workers

Young people at work

Young people are likely to be new to the workplace and so are at more risk of injury in the first six months of a job, as they may be less aware of risks. They will often be vulnerable, as they may:

  • lack experience or maturity
  • not have reached physical maturity and lack strength
  • be eager to impress or please people they work with
  • be unaware of how to raise concerns

Training and supervision

Young people need clear and sufficient instruction, training and supervision so they understand the importance of health and safety and can work without putting themselves and other people at risk. They may need more supervision than adults.

Employing a young person for the first time

If you are employing a young person for the first time, or employing one with particular needs, you should review your risk assessment before they start.

You do not need to do a separate risk assessment for work experience students, as long as your existing assessment already considers the specific factors for young people.

If you already employ a young person

If you employ a young person already, or have done recently, your existing arrangements for assessment and management of the risks for new young people should be enough. This is providing that the new starter is of a similar level of maturity and understanding, and has no particular needs, such as a disability.

Migrant Workers

All workers are protected under health and safety law, whether they are legally entitled to work in Great Britain or not. The law applies the same to migrant workers as it does to British workers.

It places health and safety responsibilities on both employers and workers.

Workers from outside Britain can encounter unfamiliar risks, sometimes due to a different working environment or working culture to what they experienced in their home country.

Migrant workers commonly work in industries such as:

  • agriculture and food processing
  • catering and hospitality
  • cleaning
  • construction
  • healthcare
  • manufacturing
  • waste and recycling

These and other industries have well-known health and safety risks and can provide an increased risk to migrant workers when:

  • they have had a relatively short period of employment in Great Britain
  • they are new to the job or unfamiliar with the industry so don’t understand all of the risks
  • they have limited knowledge of the British health and safety system, or our system has a different approach to the system in their home country
  • they have little knowledge of their health and safety rights, how to raise an issue with their employer or how to get help
  • language barriers limit their ability to communicate effectively with other workers and supervisors, making it difficult to understand training and instruction
  • employers fail to check their skills for the work (including language skills) or fail to provide appropriate health and safety training and instruction

As an employer, you should assess what information, instruction and training each worker needs and ensure it’s in place for when they start work.

You should nominate someone to deliver it and give details on where, when and how it will be done.

In providing essential job-related training, you should:

  • plan induction training carefully and deliver it with plain, simple language
  • provide information about the risks workers may be exposed to and the precautions they will need to take to avoid them, including how to use safety equipment
  • check workers fully understand the information and training they are given to ensure they can work safely and know how to raise health and safety concerns
  • ensure workers fully understand any emergency arrangements and procedures
  • ensure workers are adequately supervised and are able to communicate effectively with their supervisors
  • consider the needs of workers who do not speak English well (or at all) and whether you will need translation services

Help with language issues

Employers have a duty to provide comprehensible information to workers. This does not have to be in writing or even necessarily in English, as long as work instructions, risks, safety measures and emergency procedures are clearly communicated to all workers.

Health and safety law does not require workers to be able to speak English but learning the language should help to reduce communication difficulties and can save on costs for translation. You can do this for non-English speakers through flexible working arrangements that allow them time to learn ‘workplace English’.

It’s important to make sure workers can communicate effectively with their supervisor and co-workers. Some options to ensure effective communication when people in a workplace are not all fluent in the same language include:

  • ask an employee who shares the same native language and also speaks good English to act as an interpreter
  • seek outside help by hiring a professional (accredited) interpreter use professional translation software or free online tools
  • use a ‘buddy system’ by pairing experienced workers with new or inexperienced migrant workers who speak the same language
  • use non-verbal communication, such as video and audio – you can also use internationally recognised signs and symbols (for example hazard signs) and include hand signals
  • use simple, clear English in training sessions, while also training supervisors so they can communicate clearly to people with limited English skills.

Sources – The Health and Safety Executive

For more information or support, contact us on info@wpsafety.co.uk or 01268 649006.

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