Safety Standards in a Billingual Workplace

        Maintaining Safety in a Bilingual Workplace


     Orientation should be offered in the worker’s native language, if possible. Bilingual trainers in human resources or senior positions can serve a dual role, acting as translators at orientation, workplace presentations and safety meetings throughout the year.

     On the safety front, keep in mind that new immigrants may not understand the importance of following U.S. safety standards. If a machine breaks on an employee’s shift, he or she may worry that his or her job is on the line and try to fix it or make do. Make sure new employees understand that broken machinery in the workplace is taken very seriously to ensure everyone’s safety. Workers should understand that properly reporting problems is a behavior to be rewarded, and will not cost them a job.

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.