Some sobering statistics about workplace safety for Latinos in the U.S.:
• In 2006, there were nearly 1,000 Latino workplace related deaths in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
• Latino workers’ fatality rate was 21 percent higher than all workers in 2006 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
• More than one out of three Latinos killed on the job worked in a construction related field.
The causes behind these stats are complex, but if your company has many limited-English speaking workers, the first step in ensuring the safety and productivity of your workers is to provide safety information in your workers’ native language. This is especially true in the construction, transportation, and manufacturing sectors where it’s common to find English-speaking supervisors and Spanish-speaking workers. While the latter group may speak enough English to get by, their English reading skills may not be strong enough to understand complicated safety procedures with technical vocabulary.
The Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that companies with safety training provide the information in the language that your workers understand. Getting this required information translated into Spanish is a good opportunity to form an ongoing relationship with a translation agency that will be able to provide translations that are culturally and educationally appropriate.
If your English safety materials are clear, concise, and accompanied by graphics, your chosen translation agency will be able to create Spanish safety materials for your Hispanic workers that are just as effective as the originals.
Points to keep in mind when preparing safety documents for translation and choosing a translation agency:
• Over 40 percent of Latinos living in the U.S. do not have a high school diploma (2005 American Community Survey) so make sure that the original safety material is at an appropriate grade level so that the agency can faithfully translate both the meaning and style.
• Spanish is an extremely diverse language, and what Puerto Rican workers understand may be lost on Central American workers, so make sure that you are aware of the country of origin of your employees so as to provide the most widely-understood translation.
• Also keep in mind when choosing your translation agency that Spanish has many varieties and nuances and make sure that the agency you choose employs translators who are knowledgeable about the regional variations and language subtleties.
• A good option is to translate into Neutral Spanish which will be accepted and understood by the entire Spanish-Speaking population.
There are many cultural and political factors beyond the scope of this article that make workplace safety such a critical issue for those who employ Latinos, but working with a qualified translation agency to provide materials in Spanish is the first step in ensuring that your employees follow safety guidelines.
Hispanic Employees in the Workplace