Five tips for training non-English speaking employees

By: Ray Chishti

Publication: Construction Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 11/20/2019

Training Non-English Employees

It’s very common to be on a construction jobsite nowadays and have non-English speaking employees. But these employees can often be neglected or forgotten about because employers don’t know how to address the language barrier. Surprisingly, OSHA’s standards don’t require employers to train workers specifically in English. Rather, OSHA requires that employees are trained and provided information that they are able to understand.

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training non-English speaking employees

  1. Use a bilingual instructor. Using a bilingual instructor will ensure that your non-English speaking employees understand the safety policies and procedures at your company. If that is not practical, a bilingual employee may prove helpful in relaying safety messages. Remember, OSHA requires that training be presented using both a language and vocabulary that employees understand;
  2. Keep it simple. If the employee’s vocabulary is limited, you must account for that limitation. Keep training materials simple and avoid technical jargon. Have them translated, as necessary;
  3. Use visual aids. If employees are not literate, you will need to do more than tell them to read training materials. Signs, pictures, symbols, graphics, posters, and videos are a great way to relay important safety information. Use them during training and as daily reminders throughout the jobsite;
  4. Use demonstrations. The best way to ensure that employees understand how to do their job is to show them how to do it. Demonstrate lockout/tagout procedures, equipment setups, personal protective equipment use, tool maintenance, etc.
  5. Offer incentives. Reward bilingual employees who help out with workers who are not fluent in English. Also, consider providing instruction in learning the English language to non-English speaking employees. Over time, this may lessen the need to provide OSH Act training in other languages.

Non-English speaking employee can bring much talent and diversity to the jobsite. It’s easy to think the center of the universe is where you’re standing. But non-English speaking employees can bring their culture, traditions, talents, and perspectives from other countries. This is invaluable information, especially for many companies that have a global footprint. We guarantee, the lunchroom will be much more interesting.

Key to remember: Remember, OSHA doesn’t require that all training and information must be provided to workers in English. Rather, workers must be provided training and information that they are able to understand.

About the author
Ray Chishti - EH&S Editor

Ray is an editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. and has over 12 years of EH&S experience in a variety of industries, including EPC projects, fossil fuel power plants, gas distribution and transmission, and electrical transmission work.

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