Keeping the multicultural workforce safe

March 14th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

Occupational Hazards features an article about the challenges an organization faces in ensuring safety for a multicultural workforce. Often, workers from other countries or workers who don’t speak English may not know their rights, may be intimidated about speaking up or asking questions, or may not understand job instructions or job safety training.

Notwithstanding the fact that many immigrant workers, hungry for any job they can find, gravitate toward the most dangerous occupations and industries, foreign-born workers tend to bring minimal knowledge of safety practices and procedures to the job.

“In Vietnam, there’s no protection at work at all,” says Ngoc Huynh, coordinator of the Community Awareness Campaign on Occupational Safety, a Falls Church, Va.-based organization that educates Vietnamese workers about occupational safety and health. “They get used to it. When they get here, the most important thing to them is earning money, and they’ll take whatever job they can earn money from.”

The article discusses various ways that organizations are coping with this in safety training programs. We’ve discussed these issues in prior posts: Mandatory English at the workplace?; When it comes to safety, make sure you speak the same language; Qualified Interpreters can save lives; Cutural competence in healthcare and beyond.
Here are some multilingual resources that might assist in training:
Multilingual Health & Safety Resources and Workplace Health and Safety Worker Training Materials: An Electronic
Multilingual Resource List
(PDF) – Prepared by the Labor Occupational Health Program Center for Occupational and Environmental Health University of California at Berkeley.
OSHA in Spanish and compliance assistance materials or Hispanic employers and workers.
NIOSH in Spanish
CDC in Spanish and CDC information in various other languages
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is accessible in French and Spanish
Food Safety – Multilingual Resources – Signs and poster, fact sheets, brochures, guides, logs, forms, checklists, manuals in a wide variety of languages.
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work – translations available for some posted materials
MSDS Hazardous Substance Sheets in Spanish – from New Jersey’s Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) Program