Migrant workers in the UK construction industry risk injury through a lack of knowledge of English. Such workers often have no experience of construction work before coming to the UK, so are not necessarily familiar with hazards and safety procedures as a matter of course.
I picked up a health and safety trade magazine on the train today that someone had discarded, not expecting to find anything relating to my field in it, but there was an article in it entitled 'Making health and safety a world language'. One of the problems is that migrant workers often end up working for rogue employers who don't pay much attention to health and safety. The Health and Safety Executive works with churches and community groups to reach migrant workers, but a professor speaking at a recent construction industry conference said that going to Polish shops and pubs frequented by Poles was the best way of getting the safety message across (to Poles).
Many employers use pictures to get across important information eg a picture of a bad practice such as a badly placed ladder, or someone not wearing a helmet with a big red cross through it. This usually works fine, although there is always the danger that cartoon-type drawings are not taken very seriously.
Another academic speaking at the conference advised construction companies to exercise caution when using interpreters, and to be sure they are using a qualified and competent interpreter who doesn't translate 'plant and machinery' as 'flower and machinery'.
I was interested to see the term 'elf and safety' used in this particular trade journal. 'Elf and safety' is used by certain newspapers in a derogatory sense, usually in connection with a trivial story about games of conkers being banned, or children having to wear goggles to use glue in the classroom. The magazine was not using the term seriously or as a realistic alternative to 'health and safety' but clearly recognised the image the Health and Safety Executive has in the public imagination.