Magazine article Occupational Hazards

How Do You Spell "Safety" for Workers Worldwide? New Language Solutions Reduce Risk of Accidents, Violations and Fines

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

How Do You Spell "Safety" for Workers Worldwide? New Language Solutions Reduce Risk of Accidents, Violations and Fines

Article excerpt

Doing business in a global economy places new demands on companies to meet their non-English-speaking workforce EHS needs worldwide.

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"It doesn't matter if your headquarters are in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Asia or Europe," said Beth Donnerberg, V.P. and senior account manager at Dolphin Software, a provider of compliance and chemical management services. "You should be able to communicate and easily share hazmat info with your foreign facilities and workers."

The U.S. government and industry are responding to this new challenge with a range of solutions, from OSHA's new HazCom initiative and multi-lingual safety posters, to training sessions and videos offered in Spanish, Chinese and other languages.

While helpful, these solutions often don't go far enough. What's truly needed for any large company, whether limited to North America or operating facilities globally, is a way to offer workers native-language access to hazardous communication materials. Companies also need to be able to offer those materials in formats conforming to often stricter host-country and regional regulatory standards.

BREAKING LANGUAGE BARRIERS

Language barriers are not just an issue for hazcom in overseas locations. OSHA reports that nearly a quarter of all workrelated accidents nationally have a language barrier component and, in large cities, language barriers account for as high as 50% of accidents.

If workers can't understand a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a hazardous substance, it puts them at serious risk of an accident, and their employer at risk of fines, or even jail time. While OSHA does not require employers to make foreign language MSDSs available, that doesn't absolve companies of liability in language-related accidents, according to OSHA.

If you have an EHS service provider managing your MSDS system, ask if the foreign language MSDS can be ordered directly from the chemical manufacturer, or be custom translated. …

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