Post-Covid health and safety in multilingual workplaces

Workplaces soon will be stirring back to life after a long period of dormancy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Employers are under pressure to provide clear, actionable training materials to ensure workers can meet the new demands of the pandemic environment, including

  • Physical reorganization and procedures to increase social distancing,
  • New facility cleaning procedures and schedules,
  • Health and safety resources available to workers,
  • Clear explanations of sick leave procedures and requirements.

In Ontario, the WSIB, in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations of the provincial and national health authorities and the World Health Organization, could also require that posters showing the required sanitary measures and safety behaviors be visible in the workplace. You can also download from the Government of Ontario website posters of safety instructions to be observed for various employment sectors.

In Québec, you can also download a poster on preventive measures for workers.

A multilingual workforce presents additional challenges to clear communication. For many employers, translating changes in workplace policies is a must. Providing health and safety information in your employees’ mother tongues conveys empathy and increases understanding and compliance.

When you are sourcing translation services, following best practices reduces costs and turnaround time. Regardless of your communication platform, be it posters in your facilities, emails, videos, or e-learning, your project will go more smoothly if you keep these points in mind.

Take culture into account

Personal issues pertaining to health are especially subject to localization pitfalls. If your content includes anything confusing, offensive, or unintentionally hilarious to your multilingual audiences, you want to know before production starts. Taking the time to pause and consider how your message will resonate will increase the chances of successful outcomes. Ask your employee representatives from the target culture to review the concept and storyboard or work with a language partner that will address before launching it the translation workflow.

In addition, your corporate organization’s safety guidelines may diverge from official regulations in the country where your workers are located. This is probably obvious to those tasked with setting policy, but our point here is that you should address and resolve these local differences *before* starting the translation process.

Everyone learns best in their own language. It’s especially important to translate communications during a crisis when compliance is essential. In addition, translating this content demonstrates that your organization is committed to safeguarding all of its employees. During this health crisis, providing accurate and compelling information can make the difference between life and death.