Posted on: 30 September 2020

Helping your staff avoid accidents when English isn’t their first language

The UK is rich in diversity, with workers from all over the world seeking employment opportunities that they may not have in their home country.

Whilst this has made for a diverse workforce, who bring new ideas and cultures into a business, it could also pose a threat to health and safety if their English isn’t strong, with health and safety rules potentially getting lost in translation.

Non-native speakers can sometimes be hesitant to ask for help, so take a look at some of the ways that you can keep bilingual staff safe at work.

Safety at work for bilingual staff

First impressions with bilingual employees

When taking on a bilingual member of staff, you will need to work out their level of education and experience to see what kind of support they will need when trying to understand health and safety policies.

The best way to offer safety orientation to a bilingual employee is to offer it in their native language. This presents the problem of an additional cost of using a translator or relying on a member of staff who is fluent enough in the language to outline safe working protocols.

Effective communication without words

Around your business, you will have signage that will help your staff to keep safe around the premises, many of which will be image-based, rather than relying on words to convey a message. After all, the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Promote safety for all workers by using signage that demonstrates the dangers, or how to avoid these dangers, by using imagery which reflects the danger, or what your team can do to avoid the danger.

Considering translation services

Many industries rely on using foreign workers, such as the hotel, agricultural and the construction industries, so you could justify the cost of using a translation service due to the number of foreign staff that you may employ.

Using a translator service will allow you to communicate clear messages to the multilingual members of your team accurately, instead of having to rely on imagery, hand signals or English that might be misunderstood.

English classes for staff

Most local education providers will be happy to provide English classes for your staff if they need to learn the language as well as gain a qualification.

Get in touch with some of your local colleges or other education providers to see if they can offer classes for your non-native members of staff.

New working environments

In the UK, we have some of the strictest safety standards in the world. If an employee has come from a country where health and safety rules aren’t up to the same standards as the UK’s regulations, they may not understand how to work in order to keep themselves safe by our standards.

Coming from other countries where safety regulations may not be as comprehensive, they may be used to working in a way that gets the job done, but sometimes at the expense of safety. If this is the case, you may need to help your employee understand the importance of  safety in your business, and make them feel at ease when reporting poor health and safety practices.

Regular conversations

Whilst you want your team to work independently, you may need to touch base with your non-UK native workers from time to time to check how they are getting on. This could be a quick conversation in the workplace or a structured meeting where you can discuss their needs.

Open and honest conversations about safety should be promoted around your business, regardless of any language barrier.

Business Insurance with Premierline

With Premierline, it’s simple to compare business insurance quotes online if you know your insurance requirements. However, if your needs are more complex or you need advice on the insurance covers that are right for your business, call us and we’ll be happy to help.

Source: Zywave Inc. – Hotel Risk Insights: Safety for Bilingual Staff

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