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The test, which could come into effect from September, will be taken together with the touch-screen health and safety exam that people already need to pass to get a CSCS card.

Training body ConstructionSkills has linked up with the Health and Safety Executive and Loughborough and Glasgow Caledonian universities to identify the most appropriate way to deliver safety critical communication.

The body's head of health, safety and environment Kevin Fear said: "We're not exactly sure what form it will take yet - it could include picture cards or a book of phrases."

Under the current regulations, migrant workers can obtain a card by taking the test in their native language.

But some sites say this is not good enough and are worried they will put themselves and others at risk by not being able to understand basic instructions.

Senior site supervisor for Carillion on the East London Line Lawrence Rickers said he has to turn away nearly 50 workers a month with poor English.

He added: "People come with a CSCS card but can't fill in our application form, which includes 10 basic health and safety questions.

"If they can't fill in these forms then how can I trust them to understand simple site instructions?"

ConstructionSkills also wants supervisors and managers to learn how to communicate better with foreign workers.

Mr Fear, who sits on the CONIAC safety board, said: "We want to incorporate a module into our Site Safety Plus courses for supervisors and managers.

"They need to know what the migrant workers have been taught so that they can communicate with them effectively too."

ConstructionSkills said the existing test is there to ensure people have a certain retained knowledge of health and safety but Mr Fear admitted: "It doesn't ensure that the person knows how to respond to an incident or to alert someone else."

Figures differ wildly over how many overseas workers there are in construction.

Construction union Ucatt estimates there are 350,000 overseas construction workers in the UK Đ 15 per cent of the total workforce. But the HSE says the figure is closer to six per cent. Both agree more than a quarter of the workforce in London is foreign.

Between April 2005 and March 2007, the latest date for the HSE's full year figures, a total of 10 foreign workers were killed on sites across the UK. In that period 136 workers overall were killed.

Taken fom (Author: Andrea Klettner)