In order for your Environmental and Health Safety (EHS) training to be effective, you must have clear communication with trainees. This goal may be hard to achieve with workers who speak English as a second language (ESL).
However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that an employer’s responsibility to provide employees with information and training about safety and health hazards doesn’t go away because an employee can’t understand standard English-language training programs. When that is the case, employers must inform and train these workers in a language they can understand.
“As a general matter, employers are expected to realize that if they customarily need to communicate work instructions or other workplace information to employees at a certain vocabulary level or in a language other than English, they will also need to provide training to employees in the same manner,” says OSHA.
Serious Training Violations
OSHA’s training provisions contain a variety of specific requirements to ensure that employees are comprehending instruction. For example, standards covering lockout/tagout, respiratory protection, and bloodborne pathogens each require that employers take measures to ascertain the level to which the employee has comprehended the safety provisions.
In its instructions to inspectors, OSHA states, “If a reasonable person would conclude that the employer had not conveyed the training to its employees in a manner they were capable of understanding, then the violation may be cited as serious.”
Although Spanish is the most common second language spoken in the United States, there are many other languages ESL workers might speak, including:
- Vietnamese and Cambodian
- Various African languages
Take these steps to make sure your training message is understood by ESL workers.
- Speak slowly, explain fully, and repeat important points several times.
- Choose the simplest words and avoid technical jargon. If you must use technical terms, explain them in simple terms.
- Use a translator if appropriate.
- Demonstrate while you speak, and use visual aids, such as pictures and props, to supplement your words.
- Encourage participation. Be patient and help employees express their thoughts and questions.
- Have employees practice new skills during the training session so that you can see if they’ve understood.
- Use feedback to confirm comprehension. Allow extra time for questions.
- Provide handouts in the language(s) trainees speak and read.
- Follow up on the job to make sure that employees correctly apply what they learned.
Cultural differences can also affect communication. In many foreign cultures, for example, older people are treated with great respect and deference, whereas in the more casual North American culture, older people might be treated with more familiarity. For example, older Hispanic workers might be offended if they are addressed by their first name, preferring to be called “Señor” or “Señora.”
Updated Guidance from OSHA
In August 2015, OSHA posted a fully updated version of its guide to all OSHA training requirements. The document, Training Requirements in OSHA Standards, organizes the training requirements into five categories: General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture, and Federal Employee Programs.
Training Resources in Spanish Language
- OSHA en Español for Spanish-speaking
- OSHA Compliance Assistance: Hispanic Employers and Workers — Links to Spanish resources. — OSHA Hispanic/ESL Coordinators assist with outreach and training to Spanish-speaking workers. — Spanish-Language Publications, Dictionaries, and Standards
- Hispanic Outreach Fact Sheet [PDF*] — Outreach assistance for employers and Spanish-speaking workers.
- Hispanic Outreach Quick Start
- Construction eTool (Spanish Version)
- Resource Center Loan Program [PDF*]
- OSHA Spanish Language Alliance Developed Products – Includes OSHA products translated into Spanish by Alliance Program Participants. Topics include fall protection, excavation and trenching, aerial devices and elevating equipment, etc.
- Fall Protection, Residential Construction. West Virginia University Extension Service.
- Occupational Safety & Health Program in Spanish. Oregon OSHA.
- OSHA Training Institute Tools. University of South Florida – translated OSHA 10 hour PowerPoints into Spanish
- US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Safety and Health Toolbox. AFL-CIO. List of Spanish language safety and health resources and publications.
- Safety Break Cards. California Department of Health Services, Occupational Health Branch.
- Safety Tip Sheets. Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).
- Spanish-Language Resources. OSHA Compliance Assistance. Spanish-language resources from non-governmental organizations.
- Training and Educational Materials for Hispanic Construction Workers. Hispanics Work Safe, University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
- Spanish-related Federal Government Sites. OSHA Compliance Assistance. Spanish-language resources and other information on Hispanic workers from other federal agencies.
- Work Zone Safety. National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse.
To find outreach training in Spanish, visit the Spanish Outreach Trainers listing. If you’re an outreach trainer who conducts the training in Spanish and you want your name added to the list, send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Construction and/or General Industry
- Company/Organization, if applicable
- E-mail and/or website address, if applicable
- California State University Dominguez Hills
Courses # OSHA 510, 511, 500, 501, and others
- University of California at San Diego, CA
Construction Trainer Course #500 in CA, AZ, and NV.
Linda Pelaez, (858) 964-1054, e-mail
- Universidad Metropolitana, Bayamon, PR,
Courses #500, 501, 510, 511, and many others
(787) 288-1100 x-1375
- Texas Engineering Extension Service, Mesquite, TX
Courses #500, #501, #502, #503, #510, #511, and others
800-723-3811, ext. 238, e-mail
- Rocky Mountain Education Center, Lakewood, CO
contractual basis, Jeannine Kreller, (800) 933-8394
- Example: Lock Out Tag Out – Spanish Video
Etiquetas de Seguridad Industrial PVT-165-Q Bilingual Safety Tags, Lockout Tagout, Panduit
Somos Distribuidores y manejamos todos los productos para Candadeo y Tarjeteo para Seguridad Industrial (Lockout Tagout), si usted require alguno de estos productos o require algun apoyo técnico, pongase en contacto con nosotros:
Distribuidor: INNOVATIVE TRADE CENTER, Calle Tecoripa # 2. Fracc. Sandoval La Mesa C.P. 22105 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.Tels: (664) 621-30-09 y (664) 621-37-36, E-mails: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.innovative.com.mx
- Sources: OSHA & BLR