People learn, understand and retain information best if it is taught to them in their native language. If you have ever visited a foreign country where you speak little or none of the language, you know how confusing it can be.
In terms of safety training, comprehension increases when learners can give their complete attention to the content without needing to mentally convert the information into their first language. From the beginning of the course, the learner is focused on the subject matter, not on trying to translate and interpret the material.
Misinterpretation can lead to lower productivity, lost revenue and, more seriously, injury and loss of life. This is especially true in high-risk sectors such as manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, and construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in 25 percent of job- related accidents.
In 2010, OSHA announced an initiative in which it directed compliance officers to observe whether employers provide employees safety training in a language they understand. Employers who fail to properly train their employees are subject to citations and penalties. While OSHA cannot mandate that safety training be given in any language other than English, the agency seeks to protect workers who speak English as a second language.
Earlier this year, OSHA extended similar training protections to temporary workers. Field inspectors are expected to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the OSHA Act. The initiative follows a spike in reports of temporary workers suffering fatal injuries on the job. In many cases, OSHA reports, the employer either provided inadequate safety training or failed to provide it at all.
To ensure the safety of your workforce, and to avoid potential liability under OSHA’s initiative, it is imperative to offer training in employees’ native language. Employers must also take steps to ensure that all safety practices are explained in an easily understood manner.
At UL Work-place Health and Safety, we know that e-learning is about so much more than time and money spent on training. Effective online training should be designed to encourage employee engagement and retention, establish the foundation for a strong safety culture, and provide a consistent, repeat- able learning experience for all employees — regardless of their language or where they are located. An investment in training produces safer employees and provides organizations with a return on higher productivity, lower costs, improved competitiveness, higher profits and economic growth.
—Visit ulworkplace.com for a free preview of UL’s engaging and interactive courses. You can customize your EHS program by selecting courses relevant to your industry, location, and site- and hazard-specific training needs — or work with its team of in-house adult learning and EHS subject-matter experts to design custom courses to meet your unique needs.