Are Bilingual Workers More Vulnerable to Injuries?

Safety should be the most important concern in any workplace. Whether you work in nursing, education, or construction, your workplace has hazards, and it is your employer’s responsibility to provide training and resources to manage these hazards. In order to understand such training, though, you must understand the language the training is in. Language differences and barriers can compromise safety.

According to the journal Business Insurance, language barriers increase risks and hazards on construction sites — thus making workplace injuries and deaths more likely. Consider the following reasons why a workplace with multiple languages may make staff more susceptible to injuries.

Difficulty understanding training

In some cases, it is a struggle for workers who speak multiple languages to understand the training that is presented to them. If you have a workplace staffed with employees who speak a variety of languages, presenting training in only one language creates some obvious problems, too. It is important to consider how safety training is presented and ensure that all employees can understand it.

Inability to communicate hazards

In a linguistically homogenous workplace, one employee would typically communicate with another employee if he or she detects an active hazard. On a construction site, for example, one worker may exclaim “watch out!” to alert another that there is a hazard in their path. If these two workers do not speak the same language, though, this warning may be ineffective and leave staff vulnerable to their workplace’s hazards.

Lack of safety knowledge

It is also possible that employees who speak multiple languages will come to a job without much of the safety knowledge that native English speakers would possess. There is certain knowledge of safety in the workplace that many understand through prior work experiences, but for workers who speak multiples languages, this may not be the case. It is important to compensate for this through proactive safety training.