Special Topics in Safety Management

Safety Training for Spanish-Speaking Workers: More Tips

In our previous article, we defined the linguistic and cultural divide. Today, more ideas to bridge it.

Yesterday’s Advisor began a discussion of safety training for Spanish-speaking employees with limited or no knowledge of English. This is an increasingly familiar situation as the Hispanic component of American business grows at 36 times the rate of any other ethnic minority on the job, says a report in our sister publication, OSHA Compliance Advisor.

OSHA offers no relief from required training obligations simply because workers are unable to understand English. “Information [must be] presented in a manner the recipient is capable of understanding,” the agency says unequivocally. That means training Spanish speakers in Spanish.

If you need safety training materials in Spanish, BLR has them! Visit our Spanish Training Resource Center for all the top subjects and formats. Click to go there.

Advice on handling this challenge comes from Hector Escarcega of Bilingual Solutions International in Los Angeles, a specialist training and coaching organization.

Yesterday, Escarcega said that along with dealing with a lack of understanding of the words you use, trainers must also deal with the cultural differences of Hispanic workers. Differences such as a reluctance to wear PPE because it conflicts with their feelings of “machismo,” or a tendency on the part of some to say (or nod their heads) “Sí’”that they have understood you, even when they haven’t, just to avoid “stirring things up.”

Today, Escarcega and others offer these additional tips for dealing with a Hispanic workforce:

  • Use visual aids such as pictures, videos, diagrams, and even body language to communicate. Don’t depend on words alone. Have procedures demonstrated, and then ask volunteers to repeat the procedure to be sure it’s been understood.

  • Have translators on-site or close at hand. Many organizations go this route effectively, especially in high-risk jobsites. But be careful of translations. They often don’t accurately reflect workplace jargon or technical terms. “Trying to translate insider terms can be tricky,” Escarcega explains.

  • Understand that you may be dealing with educational as well as language gaps. Many foreign-born workers, especially in the manual and construction trades, receive little schooling in their home countries. In dealing with them, things should be explained as simply as possible, with as limited a vocabulary as possible.

  • Pair new workers with veterans who already do the job safely.

  • Consider offering classes in English as a second language for workers, and in Spanish for supervisors.

  • Finally, be sure that the training materials you use are understandable (OSHA will ask to see them to be sure that they are).

    Right to Know … Lockout/Tagout … Forklift safety … you name it, we’ve got training materials on it in Spanish. Visit our Spanish Resource Training Center and see. Click for details.

    Visit the Spanish Training Resource Center

    To this end, BLR offers virtually all of its top OSHA and Best Practices safety training and compliance kits and materials in carefully translated Spanish versions. These come in a variety of formats, including Audio Click ’n Trains, PowerPoint®, booklets, posters, and computer-based training. And many have both English and Spanish modules, to meet the needs of both groups of employees. Some of the most-ordered are listed below. Click on any or all of them for details or to order.

    MS: do not show product numbers. They’re to help you find the landing pages.

  • 7-Minute Safety Trainer (Spanish/English version)

  • Forklift Operator Safety (Spanish version)

  • Hazard Communication/Right to Know (Spanish version)

  • General Workplace Safety (Spanish version)

  • Lockout/Tagout Training (Spanish version)

  • New Employee Safety Orientation (Spanish version)

    If your need is not listed, visit our Spanish Training Resource Center, which lists all the programs and products available. Each is provided on a satisfaction assured basis, with the right to a full refund including return shipping if it’s not what you need. What if there is a need that you can’t fill? E-mail us at safetydailyadvisor@blr.com and we’ll be glad to look into it.

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