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A new hand signal has been launched on Anti-Slavery Day (18 October) to help fight modern slavery in the construction sector.

The hand signal, launched by Stronger Together with the support from Saint-Gobain, CITB and CIOB, is a new tool to empower victims of modern slavery to get help. 

Detecting victims of modern slavery is a challenge as they are often ‘hidden in plain sight’. Victims are often unable to communicate easily for reasons such as being under threat, being intimidated in the workplace, and not speaking English as a first language. A non-verbal signal can help to raise the alarm that they are in danger.

Those witnessing the hand signal can swiftly inform emergency services or the relevant authorities or organisations working in the field.

Hand SOS signal

You can find out more about how to adopt the Hand SOS Signal in your organisation and what to do if you see the signal being used in the resources from Stronger Together including a short film, posters and induction pack. Download these from the Stronger Together website.

Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland has been a sponsor of the Stronger Together Construction Programme since 2018 to help tackle modern slavery in supply chains in the construction industry.

Stella Boot, Head of Sustainable Procurement at Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland, said:

“We are pleased to support the launch of this hand signal, which is a simple way to help those affected by modern slavery.

“We're committed to working with others to take steps to eradicate modern slavery in our supply chain. Construction has the second highest rate of modern slavery and we have a duty to play our part to address this. 

“Our Modern Slavery Statement details the policies and procedures we have in place and the actions to reduce the risk of modern slavery and human trafficking within our supply chains and our businesses. 

“We see it as our responsibility as part of our purpose of Making the World a Better Home and are committed to protecting the most vulnerable workers in our supply chains.”


Spotting the signs of modern slavery

Colleagues across Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland have access to a number of resources from an e-learning pathway and online training with the Supply Chain Sustainability School to increase awareness of modern slavery, how to spot that someone may be exploited and how to take action.

Anti-Slavery Day was created by Parliament to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to address the problem. 

In March 2015, the Modern Slavery Act was introduced in England and Wales as a landmark piece of legislation that provided law enforcement agencies with the tools to fight modern slavery.

According to UN agency the International Labour Organization estimates there are about 25 million people in forced labour globally.

The construction industry is one of the sectors more vulnerable to modern slavery. This has been under the spotlight during the global pandemic with reports of suspected modern slavery cases in construction higher than in any other industry during the lockdown period.

A total of 57 cases with 209 potential victims were documented between 23 March and 23 September 2020 by the modern slavery helpline run by charity Unseen.


Want to find out more?

To support the introduction of this signal, Stronger Together has developed a range of free resources available from the Stronger Together website including:

  • A downloadable poster to place around the workplace
  • A simple toolbox talk to raise awareness of modern slavery
  • A multi-language video and slides for inclusion in on-site induction.

Stronger Together is running an online webinar, developed with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),  in November ‘Tackling Modern Slavery in the Construction Sector’ to help understand the prevalence of modern slavery within the construction sector.

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