Bilingual Workplace; Signage They Understand


        Maintaining Safety in a Bilingual Workplace

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     Signage
To promote worker safety, you should post signage and communication materials in the language in which your employees are fluent. For Spanish language compliance assistance, OSHA offers a variety of free, health and safety materials at: http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/index_hispanic.html

In addition to printed safety materials, provide information about wages, medical insurance and employee policies. It is beneficial to first evaluate employees’ level of education, job duties and common injuries, as well as culture and background, and then adapt your safety programs and communications materials accordingly.

     The Translation Option
Consider professional translation of your materials. If you have Spanish speaking employees, ensure the materials are translated into the most prominent dialect, and ask a native speaker to review the material for accuracy before distributing companywide. The standard translation fee ranges from $10 – 20 per page, but is well worth the expense when weighed against the risk of workplace accidents due to poor communication or understanding.

     Language Education
To develop and retain skilled workers, you may want to consider offering on-site language classes to help your workers build communication skills. Offering learning opportunities at the workplace is convenient for the worker and encourages learning through the team setting.

A productive and safe workplace hinges on the quality of communication between management and workers. Language and cultural barriers that emerge in a bilingual workforce can contribute to miscommunication and on-the-job accidents and injuries. Because employees that do not speak English generally hesitate to ask for help when they do not understand, every employer with a bilingual workforce must take steps to bridge cultural gaps and ensure proper communication.

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