Construction Finance Safety Minute: Staying Safe on Bilingual Job Sites
As has been discussed on here before–and is in no way a surprise to those of you out in the field–construction poses some HR (and safety) challenges that you just don’t encounter elsewhere.
Running a law firm? A bank? An insurance agency?
For all of the challenges those jobs bring, one upside is that your employees and colleagues (usually) speak the same language you do!
That’s…not exactly a given. At all. On the wrong day, a jobsite can quickly turn into The Tower of Babel 2.0, with the added excitement of bulldozers and cranes to spice things up! (Plus the ever-fun threat of litigation if things go wrong. Because in construction, when things go wrong, they have a tendency to go reallllly wrong.)
As such, it might not be a bad idea to spend a few minutes thinking about how to best communicate vital information across the language barrier. After all, on a large project, even if your own crew has all the diversity of a ranch dressing ad, there are going to be moments where you find yourself wishing you would have paid a bit more attention in those high school foreign language classes. (Side note: lo siento, Senora Weissmueller.)
Luckily, the fine folks at Engineering News-Record have already given more thought to this than I have.
The article itself is far better than any short summary I could give, so feel free to click on over. However, if you don’t feel like reading all of that, the following are a few quick tips for helping bridge any language gaps you may encounter on the job:
- If you can, turn to whichever non-native speaker has the best English. Let him (or her) then convey that information back to the rest of the crew.
- Texting is awesome. Sometimes, a five word text will be much more effective than fifteen minutes of saying the same thing slower and louder.
- If you know ahead of time that this is going to be an issue, pictograms are your friend! Obviously, a carefully designed pamphlet isn’t going to solve your spur of the moment discussion over which way the beam needs to be moved, but if you have a bilingual crew, it might be wise to prepare a few pictograms to explain recurrent safety concerns.
After all, no matter the language, a lightening bolt always means the same thing.
Finally, make sure that your crews get to know one another! Regardless of any language gaps, this will help everybody communicate better, and better communication generally means a safer job site and increased productivity.