Warning: YES, these are generalizations! There WILL be exceptions. But if your employees are not responding well to safety training, these may be some of the reasons why….
1. Spanish speakers tend to think that safety regulations and training do not apply to them. Simply translating instructions does not change this belief.
2. Spanish speakers feel that, in general, employers are NOT invested in employees’ health and safety. They think that a worksite injury or accident costs an employer nothing.
3. There is a very strong fatalistic streak among Spanish speakers. They tend to feel that if an accident is part of their destiny or fate, there is nothing they can do about it. If their lot in life is to have a job that involves risk, they feel that the best thing to do is get out there, tough it out, and do the job without complaining.
4. All groups tend to make generalizations about one another. It is human nature. One of Spanish speakers’ generalizations about people born and raised in this country is that we are not quite as tough and hard working as they are. Sorry!! They conclude that this is why so many meetings and presentations take place at jobsites in this country—because we would rather chat and drink coffee than get out there and work. Again, sorry about that! We hate to be the bearer of news that is less than flattering to our clients, but there it is…
5. Spanish speakers tend to be much more tolerant of risk than those of us born and raised in this country. Very often they have experienced extremely dangerous or risky situations before getting to a US jobsite, so getting up on a roof without fall protection (for example) looks like a walk in the park.
6. It is very difficult for Spanish speakers to believe that the US government takes an active interest in their health and safety. They do not doubt that there are laws on the books to protect workers, but they think they these laws apply only to workers who are born in this country—or that they are enforced to protect American-born workers.
7. In case you haven’t guessed by now, you will need to do MUCH more than translate to onboard Spanish speakers with the importance of safety. However, quality translation is important. If there are mistakes or if material is not professionally presented, you are reinforcing Spanish speakers’ belief that this topic is not important and does not apply to them.
8. Building items like Consistently complies with all safety regulations and Sets positive examples for new-hires and junior employees around safety into your employee evaluations will go a long way towards demonstrating that you are serious.
9. Be careful of asking a bilingual employee to present safety instructions. This employee may not buy into the importance of safety
himself, and he may not be equipped to motivate and set an example for others.
10. Spanish speakers will tend not to express their doubts but will rather smile politely, get their ticket punched, and go back to doing exactly what they were doing before the training. For important safety meetings, you will need a presenter who understands all of the misconceptions we have mentioned and has strategies to address them effectively.