Posted by Thelma Marshall, Product Director, February 20, 2020

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Communicating safety practices poorly to foreign-born workers will  impact warehouse safety. Fact is, OSHA requires that all employees have warehouse safety training and materials in a language that they understand. One easy solution is finding software that will cut through language barriers and improve communication.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 350 languages are spoken in the United States. This is why communicating safety issues with a foreign-born population is a complex challenge. You could work to translate all literature for employees facing a language barrier, but a large void in safety  would still exist.

Communications about safety issues, checklists and protocol can be easily misinterpreted. This is dangerous, especially for forklift operators. But before you break the language barriers, take time to fully recognize where they pose the most risk.

Language barriers increase risk

Operators need reminders, checklists, ongoing retraining, and to have best practices reinforced in a language they fully understand. But, providing that quickly and without a lot of extra managerial work is challenging.

One solution is to use a telematic system that provides customizable language options. This means everyone can access and understand important safety information.  This benefit is especially valuable for safety checklists. These are required by OSHA because they lower the risk of accidents and injuries due to mechanical failures.

For example, what if a few forklift operators ignore safety checklists because they can’t understand what they say? Shift managers may not know this is happening and it increases the risk of injury to anyone working in the area, including the operator.

A telematic checklist offered in multiple languages ensures that the list gets completed and crucial safety issues are identified.

Address safety protocol as clearly as possible

Managers trying to navigate language barriers need to address safety protocol head-on. It is important to discuss and risky behavior when it happens and in a way that overcomes communication issues.

This means:

  • Consider their background and differences in social norms, language and cultural barriers.
  • Demonstrate how a safety measure relates to their task as they are completing it. Show why a safety procedure matters.
  • Stay away from slang terms they might not understand. Use visual aids to support what you are saying. Point out the potential for danger.

Customize your software language

It is estimated that about  70% of all forklift accidents can be avoided with proper training combined with understandable insight and safety processes for all workers. Communication in a language that everyone can understand is key.

Software platforms, like Totaltrax’s SX200 can be accessed in Canadian French, Spanish, and German, which allows forklift operators to read the safety checklists in a language familiar to them.  This allows them to effectively complete the OSHA required checklist before they operate the forklift.

Avoiding gaps in communication is critical in providing a safe work environment for you warehouse. Your telematic software can provide multiple language options for things like safety checklists, delivering understandable insight and information to everyone.

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