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Safety in Global Workplace

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Brad Wisdom

INDM 5043

Nov 23, 2004

Safety in the Global



Advierta este papel entrarб en llamas en diez segundos ! If you can read Spanish you might have already dropped this paper. However, if you cannot, let me translate the first line for you. It reads..."Caution, this paper will burst into flames in ten seconds!" Imagine yourself as a foreigner working in a country without being able to speak or read the language. Many foreign workers are too embarrassed or afraid of termination to admit that they do not understand instructions or safety procedures. A recent Census Bureau report indicates the number of United States residents for whom English is a foreign language is nearly 32 million 1. Mexican immigrants make up the largest minority group in our country today and many of these individuals have poor English language skills or none at all. They come to this country for an opportunity to work and make a better life. In order for these employees and their fellow workers to be protected properly, a way must be found to communicate safety information to them. We must familiarize ourselves with the way in which people communicate and learn and adapt our techniques to get the message across most efficiently.

A 16 year old Mexican immigrant working for a construction subcontractor from Texas who had been contracted by a framing contractor in Oklahoma, who in turn was working for a general construction contractor in Alabama, fell to his death from a roof at the construction site in Alabama. The Texas based contractor had a safety plan but it was written only in English. The general contractor in Alabama had a safety plan for its employees but it did not make any provision for subcontractors. Evidence indicated that the crew understood little or no English. Evidence gathered during OSHA interviews of the crewmembers, indicated that the crew had no knowledge of the safety plan 2. There were many mistakes made in this scenario and we must be mindful of this type of situation due to the changing composition of the modern workplace. As managers, we will face employees with various cultural and language backgrounds and these employees must be a vital and productive part of the overall scheme. The general contractor in this case should have incorporated any subcontracted employees in its safety plan. In so doing, these contingencies are provided for before they occur and may limit the company's liability. With the rampant litigation in our country it is very important to cover all the bases where safety is concerned. The safety plan should include all employees and their unique language or culture situation. The subcontractor made the crucial mistake of hiring an underage individual. The further error occurred in not making arrangements for a non English speaking person to be made aware of all proper safety procedures.


The watchword of the new century is without a doubt "Globalization". Globalization has been defined as the evolution of economies and technologies across national borders. However, the term encompasses more phenomena than merely an exchange of currency and technology. Globalization has also created a migration of beliefs, cultures, languages and philosophies between the nations and peoples of the world. With the explosion of technological innovation, people around the world can communicate ideas, beliefs and social commentary in mere seconds and goods and services can be exchanged in hours or days. People from all areas of a country, or from around the world can travel to distant locations in search of freedom, adventure or financial betterment. Therefore we can conclude that globalization is a way to express the coming together of many nations and cultures, forming a new world environment of many varied and unique peoples living and working side by side. Even within our own borders there exists a multicultural and often multilingual work force. We find ourselves living and working next to people who may speak a different language than ours, have different beliefs and values than ours and reflect a different culture from our own. It is very important to realize that our safety and theirs depends on mutual respect and an ability to communicate with one another.

Global is a new term in the workplace as well. Businesses employ people from different cultures and backgrounds. We work with those who speak a different language, whether in our own company or the companies that we do business with. The bottom line is still the same, we all want to do our jobs efficiently and make a profit. The aviation industry outsources much of its maintenance work today. The industry figure for outsourced maintenance was recently reported at $2.5 billion. Ted Ozdemer, vice president of technical and engineering for Morten, Beyer and Agnew, says that within ten years as much as 80% of airline maintenance work will be outsourced 5. Safety is paramount in the aviation industry and these maintenance operations are under intense scrutiny. Studies are currently under way to uncover unsafe practices and procedures at the sites that perform this outsourced work. The number of incorrect parts, poor safety procedures and out of date information has been alarming. Communication is highlighted as the core reason for the deficiencies. It is evident that language barriers are a prime reason for putting workers and consumers at risk and new efforts must be made to tear down the barriers and establish clear lines of communication.


Outsourcing has added new dimensions for management as well. Outsourcing refers to the delegation of internal production tasks to an external entity 3. Contracting out certain aspects of the companies operation to outside sources can be profitable and time-saving, but it brings new challenges in the safety field. "Offshoring", which is simply outsourcing to companies outside the borders of your country, can sometimes expand these challenges further. We must be aware of our responsibilities for



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