Health and safety

It is essential to make sure efficient health and safety practices are properly implemented.

Do UK health and safety laws apply to eastern European workers?

Yes, and that’s irrespective of whether they’re here legally or illegally and whether they are employed directly or indirectly through a labour provider, warns Graeme Walker, principal inspector with HSE.

How do I know whether I’m responsible for a particular worker?

If you employ temporary or migrant workers directly, the responsibility is clear. However, where they are sourced indirectly from an independent labour provider (gangmaster) it will depend on the circumstances under which the work is being carried out and the relationship between the parties involved, says Mr Walker.

“The key issue is often who has control over the work and the way in which it is carried out,” he points out.

Where workers are provided to carry out activities such as planting, harvesting and packhouse operations, and you control and direct the activity, it will generally be you, the farmer, who is likely to be regarded as the employer.

Where workers are sourced indirectly, you and the labour provider should agree between you who will take on the responsibility for their health and safety.

So what tasks do I have to carry out?

You will need to carry out a risk assessment of the work the employee will be doing, identifying the risks they are likely to be exposed to and the control measures that are needed to avoid or minimise those risks.

Since 1 October, gangmasters who operate without a licence from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority could face prosecution. Farmers who use labour providers must check that they are licensed by the GLA – ( or phone 0845 602 5020) and from 1 December this year can be prosecuted if they use the services of an

Record the main findings in writing and communicate them clearly to other workers. Some form of induction training will almost certainly be required and in most cases further health and safety training needed.

You need to provide the necessary information, training or instruction to the worker in an understandable format.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be provided in a written form – it could be delivered verbally or by video, DVD or CD-ROM – but you must satisfy yourself that the workers have understood it.

You may need to use a bilingual worker to help deliver the training. Further advice on employing interpreters with the necessary specialist language skills can be obtained from the National Centre for Languages (CILT) at

After providing information, instruction and training, you need to test their understanding either by questioning them or observing them at work. They must also be under the supervision of someone they can communicate with.

Can I rely on technical skills or qualifications for driving or operating machinery or using chemicals gained in another country?

No. If someone claims to have the necessary skills or competences, you need to put them through some form of assessment. In the case of forklift truck driving, an employer can only authorise a staff member to drive after they have completed a suitable course of training and been independently assessed.


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