Safety Tips: Mapping A Way Out of Bad Translation

Bilingual Safety Sign

It’s not always the case that businesses need to have their documents and materials written in more than one language. But in a country like Canada where diversity of cultures is one of its strong suits, there’s a need to provide safe and fair working environment for the multicultural workforce.

Don’t Get Lost In Translation

More than the embarrassment of getting scoffed at by native speakers or perfect bilinguals, occupational accidents caused by ambiguity and mistranslation can do your business and employees harm. If you want to improve safety in your multilingual workplace, here are some things you may want to consider:

  1. One way to know if the safety materials you’re getting are accurately translated is if they are officially recognized by regulatory bodies. Organizations like CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety) certify product performance and regulate worker safety respectively, both in English and French.
  2. Workplace safety is too important to be entrusted to machine-translation engines. A wise move would be using a certified interpreter or hiring a bilingual supervisor to ensure that safety procedures and policies are cascaded in a language clearly understood by your workforce.
  3. The use of pictograms and images in safety manuals or policy and procedure documents reinforces the message, enabling effective communication of essential information to multicultural human resources. Even if a worker speaks a different language, the critical safety message is still understandable.
  4. Training employees for English or French (or other languages in the workplace) as a Second Language will not only improve employee engagement, jobsite safety and productivity; it will also help develop their confidence and cognitive skills of which your business can reap the benefits.

Clear and accurate translated materials are necessary for non-native or non-fluent speakers to be more aware of important information that could save their lives. Chalk up prompt emergency response and workplace accident aversion to experts, training and bilingual safety signs, so your staff won’t have to worry finding their way out of bad translation again.


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