OSHA Announces Native Language Initiative
August 11, 2010OSHA cannot mandate that safety training be given in any specific language other than English. However, OSHA is concerned that employees for whom English is not their native tongue are being put at risk for accidents and injuries when all of their safety training is given in English. This is especially true for employers with a highly Hispanic workforce. Therefore, OSHA recently announced its Native Language Initiative, directing compliance officers to ensure that employees are receiving their written and oral safety training in a language they understand. Where OSHA finds that employees receive safety training in a language that is not the employee’s native tongue, the compliance officer may issue citations and penalties for failure to properly train the employees.
Accordingly, employers should make sure safety training is being provided in a language that their employees understand. If some of your employees do not speak or read English, then make sure you are providing safety training in their native tongue. Likewise, if your supervisors are giving their crews daily work instructions in a language other than English (e.g. Spanish) you should consider making safety training available in that language as well as English. This also goes for written training documentation. Do not provide employees with safety manuals or have them sign training acknowledgments that they cannot read. Rather, have those documents translated into the relevant language that your workforce understands. Likewise, consider using bi-lingual trainers or offer training sessions given in each language to ensure that your employees will understand their training.