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Safety Training Amidst the Melting Pot: The Importance of Effective and Understandable Training at the Workplace

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Apr 28, 2009 8:24:04 AM

My interest in bilingual safety training started the day I entered a construction site in which a number of Spanish-speaking employees were working in a trench excavated from green soil. As a health and safety professional, my attention was immediately drawn to them. I asked if they knew what the green soil was and they said “No se”, which means, “I don’t know.”cr-2

Well, I did!

The “green soil” was contaminated with hexavalent chromium (CrVI), a known carcinogen. After asking the workers to exit the trench and decontaminate themselves, I conducted a brief training session on excavation hazards and the health hazards of CrVI. I also addressed the issue with their employer and informed them of the requirements of the OSHA Standards for Construction (29 CFR 1926) and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) (29 CFR 1910.120).

On multiple occasions I have encountered employees and supervisors (even entire companies) that do not understand or are unaware of the safety and health regulations associated with their jobs. The OSHA Construction Standard states “….The employer should avail himself of the safety and health training programs the Secretary provides...“

In plain English, employers are required to develop and implement training programs that promote hazard recognition and avoidance of injuries associated with their environment and job duties. The test is in the comprehension. For example, all too often, the use of videos as the sole training method can be ineffective and may most likely not meet the requirements of the standard. Video training lacks the interaction and hands-on elements required by many OSHA construction standards.

What does effective mean? ”The instruction that employers must provide under §1926.21 must be tailored to the employees' language and level of education, the hazards its employees will encounter, and convey the required information.” Employers need to consider the end result of any training session – did the employees understand the message and can they implement what they learned on the job?

Effective training is an OSHA requirement. What’s more, effective training helps employees understand and perform their jobs correctly and recognize unsafe conditions, thus reducing injuries, work stoppage, costly lawsuits and penalties. If a company requires an employee to enter an oil tank, a trench, or any confined space, he or she should know how do it safely.

Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Compliance, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish, Confined Space

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