Exploratory case study of pictorial aids for communicating health and safety for migrant construction workers

Billy Hare, Iain Cameron, Kevin J. Real, William F. Maloney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Approximately 8% of UK construction workers are from overseas. Migrant workers face several barriers, including language and communication difficulties, which have obvious implications for the management of health and safety (H&S). This paper examines the effectiveness of pictorial aids for communicating hazards and controls to migrant workers on construction sites. A lexicon of critical H&S terms was developed through content analysis of worker induction guidance. A pictorial inventory of images was developed, tailored to the lexicon. The images were tested for comprehension among 50 migrant workers. A threshold of 85% correct interpretations of each image was set. 23 images failed and were altered before retesting to satisfactory levels. Workers from European countries identified more images correctly than workers of African and Indian origin. Workers with less than 5 years' experience scored lower than more experienced workers. Pictorial aids can communicate simple hazards and controls. Cultural differences may distort comprehension. Images should supplement existing communication methods, not substitute them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)818-825
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Communication
  • Migrant
  • Pictograms
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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