Should You Translate Safety Standards and Policy Updates for Your Workplace?

Technical, Translation Services

Ensuring a safe work environment for employees is crucial for any business.

Both safety signs and company policies play an important role in helping to maintain safety standards across the board.

While having these materials available in English is imperative for your employees who speak English as their first language, translating them into languages other employees may also speak natively will help your business avoid machine malfunctions, injuries, and potential lawsuits.

What types of documents should you consider translating to meet your employees’ needs?

If a document is considered critical for an employee’s job performance or safety, you should invest in a professional translation of it. Some examples include:

–       Safety manuals

–       Employee/company handbooks

–       Safety posters around the workplace

–       Training materials, as appropriate

–       Warning labels or signs

–       Incident forms (reporting and procedures)

–       Write-ups

Of course, what you decide to translate for your company may look slightly different. It is often a good idea to consult your HR department for the most critical information.

Are you legally required to translate safety standards and policy updates?

While it is not always necessary to translate each and every document you create, certain pieces of information should always be available to employees in a way that is easy to understand.

For those employees who do not speak English, this means making the more critical documents relating to safety and company policy available in their native language(s).

In fact, it is not just recommended. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stipulates that companies must provide language access to vital documents in the native language of its intended audience.

From a legal standpoint, having information like safety standards and company policies available in your employees’ native language helps protect you from potential issues.

If, for example, an employee gets injured on the job or is fired and claims not to have understood company policy, having the appropriate documents translated into your employees’ native languages could help protect you from further harm or retribution.

What are the benefits of translating safety materials?

Not only can translating safety materials and company policy documents prevent you from potential legal harm, but it also helps ensure the welfare of your employees and visitors.

The primary function for both safety signs and manuals is to ensure both employees and visitors alike are aware of any possible dangers and hazards associated with a particular machine or area within your company, thus preventing injury or machine failure.

If any of your company’s employees or visitors speak a language other than English as their primary language, having manuals and signage properly and professionally translated is vital to ensure they are provided with the same level of safety standards as your English-speaking employees and visitors.

An injury in the workplace can easily result in a lawsuit for your company if the person who was injured could not understand a manual for a machine or signage related to safety in the workplace.

It can also help prevent pricey and potentially avoidable machine repair costs.

If an employee is unable to fully understand the operating manual for a particular machine they are working on, it could result in an otherwise avoidable machine malfunction if the employee does not use the machine as intended.

The machine could also become damaged or damage the surrounding workspace.

Even an employee with a good grasp of English in a typical situation may struggle with some of the more technical vocabulary found in operating manuals. Having the manuals available their native language will help eliminate or reduce repair costs, thus saving you money in the long term, since the employee is much more likely to fully understand the steps necessary to properly use the machine.

What benefits will you see from translating company policy resources?

When a new employee is hired at your company, your handbook and other onboarding paperwork are valuable resources for this new staff member.

These materials will be the first impression the employee has about your company, and it is crucial that your new team member understands all policies and procedures, as well as any specific job performance requirements.

Also, if a non-English-speaking employee (or someone with limited English proficiency [LEP]) receives a write-up, having the write-up and any subsequent terms/expectations listed in their primary language will ensure that the employee fully understands what is expected going forward in order to correct any negatively perceived behavior.

An employee who fully understands what is expected from day one is less likely to make a costly mistake during their time with your company.

Having company policy materials available in your team members’ native language(s) is one step to showing you are in a partnership and that you are there to support them.

Challenges and risks when it comes to translating safety standards and policy materials

Translating safety and policy documents is not always easy.

Some of your materials are likely to contain technical jargon and certain terms that are specific to your workplace.

These materials must be translated with care, and these specific terms must be translated precisely by a professional who is familiar with your field.

Make sure that your English documents are plainly written, clear, and concise. Not only will this make for a smoother translation process, it will also benefit your English-speaking employees by eliminating ambiguity.

Moreover, not translating safety standards and company policy materials could result in missing out on potential employees who are highly skilled.

If you do not have these types of documents available in a potential applicant’s native language, an individual with the right skills and experience may decide not to apply for fear of not being able to perform the work competently.

Likewise, employees who feel valued are more likely to remain at a company. However, if workers feel frustrated by not being able to understand some of the safety requirements for the job they’ve been assigned, the turnover rate for these workers will likely also be higher.

The importance of a high-quality translation for safety standards and workplace policy updates

Your employees’ safety and understanding of their job performance is not something to take lightly, and cutting corners could be truly detrimental.

These documents and materials are considered vital for your English-speaking employees, so it’s important to make sure your non-English-speaking and LEP employees are afforded the same level of quality.

If these materials are translated poorly, there can be serious, negative consequences for both your employees and you, so make sure these translations are handled by professional translators, as opposed to machine translation tools or even by your bilingual employees.

Even a slight error could result in an employee or visitor’s injury or damage to your brand. If you are interested in learning more about translating your safety standard and policy materials, please let us know—we are happy to help!

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