Search

Question of the Week: OSHA Policy on Multilingual Workplaces

Posted on 1/4/2011 by James Griffin

Q. We have a multilingual workplace. Many of our employees have a native language other than English. Is there an OSHA requirement that obligates employers to ensure that their employees can communicate with supervisors and coworkers in English at the work site so that they can understand safety training and instructions and coordinate safely with coworkers?

A. Employers must train their employees and provide hazard communications and instructions in a manner that the employees can understand.

While there are many OSHA workplace safety standards for both General Industry (29 CFR 1910) and Construction (29 CFR 1926) that require training and instructions, none of these standards specifically require that this information be conveyed and understood in English.

The employer’s duty is to train and instruct employees in how to comply with OSHA standards and to avoid hazards in the work environment. This means that the employers must present the information in a manner that employees are able to understand.

As stated by David Michaels PhD, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, in the “OSHA Training Standards Policy Statement,” dated 04/28/2010: “[R]egardless of the precise regulatory language, the terms “train” and “instruct,” as well as other synonyms, mean to present information in a manner that employees receiving it are capable of understanding.”

In addition, it is common that, for safety reasons, construction employees need to be able to communicate with supervisors and coworkers. However, an OSHA obligation in that regard would be met by any system in which that communication could reliably occur; there is no OSHA requirement that the communication system be based on the English language.

Sources: OSHA letter of interpretation number 20071001-7893 [July 26, 2010]; OSHA memo, David Michaels, PhD, “OSHA Training Standards Policy Statement,”April 28, 2010

Tags: best, osha, practices

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

You blew the doors off the competition!

Stephen Bieschke

Facilities Manager

This training broke down the regulations in an easy-to-understand manner and made them less overwhelming. I now feel I have the knowledge to make more informed decisions.

Amanda Oswald

Shipping Professional

More thorough than a class I attended last year through another company.

Troy Yonkers

HSES Representative

Lion's course was superior to others I have taken in the past. Very clear in the presentation and the examples helped to explain the content presented.

George Bersik

Hazardous Waste Professional

Course instructor was better prepared and presented better than other trainers. Course manual and references were easier to use as well.

Marty Brownfield

Hazardous Waste Professional

I chose Lion's online webinar because it is simple, effective, and easily accessible.

Jeremy Bost

Environmental Health & Safety Technician

I was able to present my scenario to the instructor and worked thru the regulations together. In the past, I attended another training firm's classes. Now, I have no intention of leaving Lion!

Diana Joyner

Senior Environmental Engineer

I really enjoyed this training. Even after years on both sides of the comprehension coin, I find myself still learning! The quality of the delivery exceeded much of the training I have received in the past.

Neil Ozonur

Safety Officer

The instructor did an excellent job presenting a very dry subject; keeping everyone interested and making it enjoyable.

Marc Bugg

Hazardous Waste Professional

These are the best commercial course references I have seen (10+ years). Great job!

Ed Grzybowski

EHS & Facility Engineer

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Some limited quantity reliefs are reserved for specific modes of transport. Use this guide to identify which reliefs you can capitalize on, and which do not apply to your operations.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.