An inquest at Peterhead Sheriff Court heard that communication failures had contributed to the tragic death of a man working on a roof in Fraserburgh. The worker and his nephew had been busy removing sheets of asbestos cement from a roof.
Having reached a position on the building by using a telehandler, the machine’s basket was being unloaded on the ground level. The pair were waiting on the roof when it suddenly gave way. The nephew managed to grasp a portion of the wall and save himself, but Nikolas Naumovs, a 57-year-old Latvian migrant worker, plunged five and a half metres to his death.
An investigation by the health and safety executive found that a major contributory factor to the incident had been the couple’s failure to grasp instructions that have been relieved to them. The director of the company who was employing them had visited the property previously to explain the work that would be involved. They had failed to grasp the scale of the task to be undertaken, and the director had only been able to assume that they had.
What can be done to counteract communication failures?
One aspect of the UK’s membership of the European Union is the fact that employment law can now enable British citizens to freely travel abroad looking for work, and for this situation to be reciprocated.
One unfortunate by product of this scenario is that many workers are now arriving on construction sites and other environments here who have only a rudimentary grasp of English.
This eventuality should be covered by risk assessment, with particular emphasis being placed on the relaying of safety instructions to workers whose first language is not necessarily English.
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