Health and safety policies need to be understood by every worker
The U.S. population becomes more diverse every day. As the diverse population number grows, the amount of multilingual employees also increases. Knowing how to speak and understand multiple languages can benefit the workplace in many ways. But there must be safety measures in place for these workers to understand, regardless of their native language.
Making sure multilingual and non-English speaking workers have the proper training can help prevent workplace accidents and help workers avoid injuries. However, according to a study published in Safety and Health Magazine, in companies with less than 50 workers, only 37.5 percent of supervisors spoke the same language as immigrant employees. In companies with more than 50 workers, the percentage was 68.9.
Helping workers understand
Using translation machines like Google Translate may be an obvious choice for an employer, but this can cause an even more difficult misunderstanding. The thing about different languages is that many have multiple dialects, depending on the country of origin.
Juan Zuniga, a worker/trainer in the United Steelworkers' environmental, health and safety department, says that one word in his culture could mean something completely different to someone else, even if it is the same language. That means even if a translator speaks the same language as the worker, there's still room for confusion if the cultural backgrounds are different.
Reading warning/hazard signage and understanding verbal and written instructions are all essential for a safe workplace environment. This occurs by doing more than just taking an employee aside and speaking with them. Employers need to provide programs and courses as resources for multilingual workers.
Tips for training non-English speaking employees
Construction Regulatory Alert shares tips for employers on how to train their multilingual and/or non-English speaking workers:
- Bilingual instructor. Having a bilingual instructor that speaks and understands the same language and dialect ensures the employee understands all safety policies and procedures.
- Simplicity. Despite speaking different languages, employees can also have different literacy levels. You have to put this into consideration. Train with simple materials and avoid difficult technical terminology.
- Visuals. Images sometimes speak louder than words and are more universal. Signs, pictures, symbols, graphics, posters, and videos are all simple ways to relay safety information that are necessary for a safe work environment.
- Demonstrations. Everyone learns differently. Showing an employee how to do something is often the best way to ensure they know how to get the job done safely.
Multilingual workers deserve to have their rights protected
At McLaughlin & Sanchez, we believe that all injured workers have the right to know that they could be eligible for workers' compensation, regardless of their native language. But even if employees understand their right to seek workers' compensation benefits, the process in California can be confusing and complicated to navigate without the help of an experienced attorney to guide you.
If you were injured on the job in Southern California, our law firm can review the details of your case for free and help you get a clear understanding of your legal rights and options. We can also build a strong case on your behalf and fight for the compensation you're entitled to. We are dedicated to getting our clients the help they deserve.
Contact us today for a free case review with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer. We have offices in San Diego, Temecula, and Chula Vista.