OSHA Enforcement Memo Focused on Non-English Speakers

Inspectors will verify that training was provided in a language and vocabulary the workers could understand.

OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum Wednesday that tells its compliance officers to check and verify that workers are receiving OSHA-required training in a language they understand. The directive applies to non-English speakers, not solely to Latino workers.

"This directive conforms with Secretary Solis' clear and urgent goal of reducing injuries and illnesses among Latino and other vulnerable workers," said Dr. David Michaels, the OSHA assistant secretary. "These workers represent an integral and essential part of the key industries that keep our country running every day."

Several OSHA standards require employee training, and it is well understood that training should be provided in formats and languages that workers comprehend. Companies that offer training aids and materials typically offer products in multiple languages, particularly in Spanish for the U.S. market, but also in French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi, Italian, Chinese, Dutch, and more. The memo says compliance officers should check and verify that training was provided in a language and vocabulary that the workers could understand.

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