Effective Safety Training for Spanish Speakers

With the economy slowly rebounding, many industries are shifting into higher gear, hiring new and temporary labor to meet this demand.

With the economy slowly rebounding, many industries are shifting into higher gear, hiring new and temporary labor to meet this demand.

With the influx of employees, it is especially important that all workers receive the safety training they need, and that managers consider providing it in the language they understand best. This is particularly important for Spanish-speakers, who are disproportionately represented in workplace fatalities.

Findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that, although accidents and injuries are trending downward overall, the rate of Latino fatalities in the workplace are trending up.

Of the 4,405 workplace fatalities in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, 797 were Hispanic or Latino workers – 7 percent higher when compared to 2012.

The problem is exacerbated in industries such as construction, designated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) as "high hazard." According to the BLS, as of 2013, nearly one in four construction workers (24.4 percent) is Latino, compared to 15.4 percent of all employed workers. Yet OSHA reports that in 2013, Latinos accounted for 28.3 percent of all contractor deaths.

The BLS data also shows that fatalities among contract or temporary workers, jobs attracting many Latino employees, are also on the increase with 734 contractors dying as a result of work-related injuries in 2013, up from 715 in 2012 and 542 in 2011, when the BLS began collecting data.

Notably, of all fatalities for Latinos, 66 percent involved foreign-born workers. In fact, Mexican-born workers accounted for 42 percent of the fatal injuries among all foreign-born workers.

With these numbers in mind, there is good reason to believe that many of these fatalities possibly involved employees who were not fully proficient in the English language. Indeed, a 2013 U.S. Census Bureau report found that, of those who spoke Spanish at home, 16.9 percent said they did not speak English "very well" and another 9 percent reported that they did not speak English at all.

Considering the costs to business and the personal tragedy behind these numbers, the clear answer for companies with Latino employees who may not have English proficiency is to offer safety training in Spanish.

The American Red Cross, in partnership with Summit Training Source, is one of only two programs in the country to offer online OSHA 10-hour training in Spanish.

The course contains the same content as the English-language version, including a broad overview of employee roles and responsibilities regarding safety. And just like the English-language version, it meets the OSHA construction-site training required by seven states – Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

For those companies looking for separate, stand-alone instruction in First Aid/CPR/AED, the Red Cross also offers a Spanish-language option.

Safety training can never be a "check the box" experience. Companies offering employees a Spanish-language version of OSHA training and Spanish-language in First Aid/CPR/AED training are ensuring that every employee stays safe on the job and is better prepared should an emergency arise.

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