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Safety Training in Native Language Improves Comprehension

Regarding safety training, comprehension increases when learners can give their complete attention without needing to translate information into their first language.

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December 21, 2022

People learn, understand and retain information best if it is taught to them in their native language. If you have ever visited a country where you speak little or none of the language, you know how confusing it can be. Imagine, then, how difficult it would be to train appropriately for your job if you were learning in a language that was not your first language. This is why UL Solutions offers courses in multiple languages through its environmental, health and safety library.

Improve comprehension and productivity

In terms of safety training, it is particularly important that learners can give their complete attention to the content without the needs to mentally translate the information into their first language. From the beginning of the course, the learner can focus on the subject matter, not on trying to translate and interpret the material. This can be especially helpful in improving comprehension of essential safety training.

Misinterpretation can lead to lower productivity, lost revenue, injury and loss of life. This can be 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 contribute to 25% of job-related accidents. Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fatal injury rates were 69% higher for foreign-born Hispanic workers than those born in the United States.

OSHA provides language assistance

OSHA directs compliance officers to observe whether employers provide employees with safety training in a language and vocabulary they understand. Employers who fail to train their employees properly 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 — particularly for those working for employers with a largely Hispanic workforce. Therefore, OSHA offers compliance assistance resources for Spanish speakers and other resources for Hispanic workers and employers. 

OSHA extends 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 recommended practices help reduce preventable and fatal injuries of temporary workers. In many cases, OSHA reports that the employer either provided inadequate safety training or failed to provide it at all.

To help increase the safety of your workforce, and to avoid potential liability under OSHA’s initiative, it’s imperative to offer training in employees’ native language and take steps to ensure that all safety practices are explained in an easily understood manner. Translating existing training materials from English to Spanish (and other languages, as needed) is a cost-effective solution.

People learn, understand and retain information best if it is taught in their native language. UL Solutions understands the needs of diverse workforces and offers safety programs in widely spoken global languages. Training in various languages is essential because OSHA requires all of training content to be provided in a language and vocabulary that employees understand. 

Learn more about environment, health and safety training courses from UL Solutions.