Foreign nationals at higher risk of injury
FOREIGN NATIONALS have a much higher risk of sustaining a work-related injury than their Irish colleagues, newly-published research has found.
A study of people requiring plastic surgery treatment for occupational injuries at a major Dublin teaching hospital between August 2006 and February 2007 found that 40 per cent were foreign nationals even though workers born abroad account for just 9 per cent of the total workforce in the Republic.
Dr CC Davidson and Mr David Orr, plastic surgeons at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, analysed 201 injuries identified over the six-month period.
Some 82 of these injuries were sustained by workers in the construction industry, about two-thirds of which involved foreign nationals.
Manufacturing, hotels and restaurants and the agriculture and fisheries sectors were the next most common areas of employment in which injuries were recorded.
Significantly, 63 per cent of foreign nationals were working in different jobs to those they had in their native country.
The researchers also found that the foreign workers sustained more severe injuries than Irish employees.
More than 50 per cent of foreign nationals required hospital admission, including five individuals who suffered the amputation of a complete digit.
A young Polish national treated at St James’s suffered an amputation of his thumb and index finger on his first day at work here.
In total, 12 foreign national workers were found to have severe hand injuries, including tendon and nerve damage. Burn injuries, in both Irish and foreign nationals, were also common.
The study, published in the current issue of the Irish Medical Journal (IMJ), found that most of the foreign nationals injured were from the new EU accession states. These immigrants have been eligible to work here since the union’s expansion in May 2004. A smaller number of workers from Asia and Africa were injured.
“The injured foreign national workers in our study were a younger cohort with less time spent in their current positions at the time of injury when compared with the Irish workers”, the authors noted. Specifically, they identified former shop assistants working in the construction industry, car salesmen employed as carpenters and college students working as chefs.
Commenting on what might be done to reduce the level of workplace injury among foreign nationals, the authors said, “freeing up of labour markets should be paralleled by specific training requirements for potentially hazardous jobs”.
“Adequate language skills or translation facilities may need to be part of such regulation in order to protect vulnerable migrant workers.”