The American workforce’s diversity is growing each year. In fact, in 2012 alone, about 36% of the labor force was non-white: 16% were Hispanic, 12% were African American, and 5% were Asian, while 3% did not identify with any race. The range of cultural influences on the professional field is undoubtedly one of the nation’s strengths.
With a growing immigrant population, however, comes a diversity of languages. In 2015, an estimated 350 languages were spoken in U.S. homes, with some people being more fluent in languages other than English. This could pose some difficulties in the professional field.
Multilingual Safety Warnings
Some professions are more hazardous than others. By law, employers are required to put up signs warning workers of potential danger. Clarion Safety Systems, a safety label and sign manufacturer, even emphasizes this. The company says that product safety labels and safety signs need to be easily understood, so workers immediately recognize the dangers of handling a product or entering an area.
No Recommended Secondary Language
Manufacturers and workplaces, therefore, need to consider installing multilingual labels and signs for consumers and employees who may not be fluent in English. But another point for consideration is which language to use. Should an employer pick one over the other? This would leave out other minorities.
On the other hand, it’s impossible to accommodate every language in a diverse workforce. From space to technical issues, the undertaking would be unwieldy and costly to boot.
Symbols: Better for Communicating Danger?
ANSI Z535, the safety alerting standard, does not require safety signs to have additional languages. It did encourage the use of symbols, though, stating that hazard information is better communicated through symbols because they can cross language barriers.
At the end of the day, it’s the manufacturer or the facility owner who will need to decide on what language and signs would be most appropriate for their standing workforce. What’s important is that they help ensure the safety of their employees.