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New multi-language resources help raise workers’ awareness of 8 significant hazards

Team of workers at a factory standing in a row smiling at camera with arms crossed.

Ontario is looking to fill gaps in its labour market by welcoming newcomers to the province at historic levels. This, in addition to temporary foreign workers, means tens of thousands of new Canadians will be entering our workforce, bringing with them a varied understanding of health and safety rights, responsibilities, and workplace hazards. Language barriers may also complicate their ability to communicate with their employer about health and safety and integrate into the workforce safely. Many may also be hesitant to speak up and ask questions.

“As a result, many newcomers lack proper awareness of the hazards on the job, how to stay safe, and their rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act,” says Bill Chen, WSPS Account Representative. “This puts them at higher risk of injury than their Canadian counterparts, which is bad news for these workers and their employers.” 

In response to this challenge, WSPS has launched two new sets of multi-language resources for the high-risk sectors of manufacturing and agriculture. These resources are designed to increase awareness of common hazards that often lead to serious injuries and fatalities. “Providing health and safety information in a worker’s first language is the best way to ensure they fully understand what’s being taught, and can protect themselves from hazards,” says Bill. 

“Workplaces can use these free resources for new hire orientation, health and safety training, health and safety talks, daily communication or pre and post-shift chats,” notes Bill. 

Mobile-friendly hazard awareness

WSPS’ new resources  - a collection of mobile-friendly videos and visual tip sheets - provide information on common hazards in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors and use animation, plain language, graphics, subtitles and other means to engage workers in their first language.

Resources for the manufacturing sector are available in French, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog and English, and address five hazards that may lead to serious workplace injuries: 

  • loading and unloading trailers safely
  • lockout/tagout – staying safe with hazardous energy
  • machine and conveyor safety
  • safety around cars, vans and trucks
  • slips, trips and falls

Resources for agriculture are available in Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese and English, and address:

  • ladders and heights
  • safely working with machines
  • safely working with tractors 

You can also download two QR code posters, one for manufacturing and another for agriculture. These provide an easy way for employers, health and safety managers, human resources, joint health and safety committee members or health and safety representatives to connect workers to these resources via their mobile devices.

The benefits to your workplace

Misinterpretation of health and safety information because of language barriers can lead to injury, loss of life, and higher costs for businesses. Bill recommends that businesses of all sizes take advantage of WSPS’ multilingual resources to:

  • improve health and safety communication;
  • develop a better understanding of health and safety compliance;
  • increase understanding, knowledge and awareness of hazards;
  • reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities; and
  • improve the workplace’s safety culture.

Bill notes, however, that the new resources don’t replace job-specific training. “Businesses should always take a three-pronged approach to training all workers, including those who don’t speak English: teach them how to do it, make sure they understand, then have them demonstrate how to do it.”

More actions you can take 

Businesses with non-English speaking workers can take additional steps to ensure understanding of health and safety information.

  • Provide access to English language training.
  • Use translation services for important documents.
  • Encourage employee participation and let employees know they can ask questions about safety in the workplace.
  • Take advantage of new technologies, like Google Translate, Bing Translator or ChatGPT, but be mindful of their limits and possible inaccuracy
  • During training,
    • use simple language, no jargon or acronyms, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly. 
    • check for comprehension by providing quizzes. Have a translator in the room to help if possible.
    • be available for questions after the training session ends – many newcomers may not feel comfortable asking questions in class.

How WSPS can help 

Connect with a consultant to help your workplace develop training courses aimed at a multilingual workforce. 

New Multilingual Resources

Free 45-Minute Webinar


The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.