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Rinker Materials Corporation’s Hydro Conduit plant in Frederick, Maryland used interpreters to communication with its Spanish-speaking employees during weekly safety training meetings. While the interpreters were able to communicate the required information, the Company believed that a more direct method of communication with its employees would be more efficient and better demonstrate the Company’s commitment to safety. Heavy use of the interpreters also required more time for safety meetings, and resulted in a cultural barrier between the Spanish-speaking employees and safety personnel.
The Safety Coordinator at the Company’s facility in Frederick, Maryland, redesigned the weekly safety presentations to better communicate with Spanish-speaking employees. He photographed various processes in the plant, staging both safe and unsafe practices, and then incorporated the photographs into PowerPoint presentations for the weekly safety meetings. The photographs are simply labeled in both English and Spanish to indicate whether or not the practice is safe. Interpreters remain available to translate questions and answers, but the key safety concepts are introduced through the visual presentation, rather than through oral communication.
The Company has found that its training meetings are much more effective using the safety demonstration PowerPoint slides, labeled in both English and Spanish. Employees are to grasp key safety concepts more quickly and to understand the Company’s commitment to safety and health more clearly and directly. An added benefit to the approach is that the PowerPoint slides are relatively easy and inexpensive to develop, requiring only a minimal initial investment in equipment.
Although it is difficult to estimate the effect on employee injury rates in this particular safety program due to the limited number of injuries experienced, the program has had a dramatic impact on communication between employee work groups and safety personnel. Employees who were formerly reluctant to speak during safety meetings now voice their concerns and offer suggestions and opinions. This increased communication has allowed the company take proactive action on safety issues that otherwise would not have been identified.
D.J. McKinney, Eastern Zone Safety Manager, Rinker Materials Corporation (July 2004).
Bob McDonnell, Safety Coordinator, Frederick Maryland Facility (July 2004) (Now at Rinker Materials, Hydro Conduit, Bay, TX)