Can Language Barriers Affect Worker Safety?

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Maintaining a safe workplace is always important, but this can be challenging if there is a language barrier between employers and their employees. The number of employees with English as a second language has increased within the past decade, along with the number of workplace injuries. As a result of this trend, the United States government has increased funding for better education of employees in the future.

Many employees who do not speak fluent English may struggle with instructions or understanding the safety protocols. This could cause stress between employers and employees and may cause those with weak English language skills to fear termination. Also, workers who use English as their second language are more prone to work accidents as a result of the language barrier. Accidents in the workplace are serious and can cause injuries or death to occur. There are many ways that employers can make working safer for those with English as a second language.

Safety Training

Failure to train employees properly, no matter how serious the language barrier, could lower productivity and lead to injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide their employees with proper safety information and train them in their native language. When training employees, it is important to do the following:

  • Speak slowly
  • Use a translator if you do not speak the employee’s language
  • Use visual aids
  • Ask questions frequently and encourage participation
  • Ensure that employees understand by having them practice certain skills
  • Provide safety handouts with text in their own language
  • Continuously follow up and monitor their work efforts to make sure they understand and are doing their job to the best of their abilities

Learn Cultural Differences

Employees who come from different cultures may have a different work style than those who are used to American ways of working. Employers can recognize these cultural differences and use them to help with safety training and overall work duties. The more familiar employers are with other cultures, the easier it will be for employees to learn and succeed at their job.

Teachable Moments

If you hired a substantial number of English as a Second Language (ESL) workers, helping them learn English will improve their understanding of the work they are doing. To do this, conduct a new worker orientation in their native language and host English language classes if the budget allows. Offer incentives for those who attend any language classes or activities to improve attendance.

Employees, no matter the language they speak, are important assets to companies and deserve to be trained in the same way as native English speakers. Their safety is always a concern and should be handled in a way that ESL workers understand. Without proper safety training and orientations, work accidents will happen, and Workers’ Compensation claims will increase.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Workers with Injuries due to Language Barriers

If you were injured because of a lack of safety protocols in your native language, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. We will ensure you receive the benefits you deserve for your injuries. Call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.