How to Manage Bilingual Workers in the Staffing Industry
Bilingual Staffing Solutions: Safety
In a bilingual workplace, language and cultural barriers can contribute to miscommunications and on-the-job accidents and injuries. When managing full-time and temporary workers whose first language is not English, it’s your job to ensure they understand their duties, company policies and safety procedures. Because employees who don’t speak English may hesitate to ask for help when confused, staffing companies must work with clients and take steps to bridge cultural gaps and ensure proper communication.
Orientation and Training
Orientation should be offered in a worker’s native language, if possible. Bilingual employees in human resources or other senior positions can act as translators at orientation and at workplace presentations and safety meetings throughout the year.
To promote worker safety, ensure signage and communication materials are in the language in which your employees are fluent. For Spanish-language compliance assistance, OSHA offers a variety of free health and safety materials at: www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/index_hispanic.html
In addition to printed safety materials, provide information about wages, health insurance and employee policies. It’s beneficial to first evaluate your types of placements, specific job duties and common injuries, as well as culture and background, and then adapt your safety programs and communications materials accordingly.
Translation of Materials
Consider professional translation of your materials. If you have Spanish-speaking employees, ensure the materials are translated into the most prevalent dialect, and ask a native speaker to review the materials for accuracy before distributing companywide. The standard translation fee ranges from $10 – 20 per page, but is well worth the expense when weighed against the risk of workplace accidents due to poor communication or understanding.
On the safety front, keep in mind that new immigrants may not understand the importance of following U.S. safety standards. If a machine or tool breaks while a temporary employee is using it, they may try to make do or fix it to avoid potential blame. Make sure new employees understand that broken machinery in the workplace is taken very seriously and must be reported to ensure everyone’s safety. Workers should understand that properly reporting problems with equipment is a behavior to be rewarded.
Staying in Touch
Plan to make regular, frequent client site visits. Talk about workplace safety and any other issues temporary employees may be encountering on the job. To create a welcoming environment, develop a culture that promotes and supports diversity as a core organizational value.
Remember, OSHA’s initiative to protect temporary workers is in full steam. Ensure your working with clients to create a safe environment for all employees, which includes accommodations for bilingual workers.
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