Survey Examines Impact of Multiple Language Workforces on Workplace Safety

A recent American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Council on Practices and Standards (CoPS) survey of its Practice Specialty members found that multi-language worksites play a major role in developing and implementing effective workplace safety and health programs.

ASSE members noted that at U.S. worksites today, it is not just an "English and Spanish" language issue that can create barriers when communicating safety and health information to workers. In fact, multiple languages can significantly impact a worksite. Key findings and recommendations in the paper include:

  • ASSE and SH&E professionals must be more proactive in addressing issues at multi-language worksites.
  • Cultural differences play a crucial role within multi-language worksites, as translation may not always be effective if cultural differences are not understood.
  • The translation of materials for workers must take regional dialects into consideration to avoid miscommunication.
  • Multi-language worksites are a growing, complex challenge for the profession.
  • SH&E professionals should plan for multi-language worksites to prepare for future challenges.
  • SH&E professionals in other countries are encouraged to learn several languages as a way to obtain and maintain a competitive advantage in today's global marketplace.
  • Worker literacy must be improved. Translating documents is not efficient or effective if those using the material are not literate in their own language.

CoPS developed a white paper and a set of recommendations titled "The Impact of Multi-Language Worksites on Safety, Health and Environmental (SH&E) Professionals," which is available on ASSE's Web site at www.asse.org/frboscformal.htm.

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