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Within organisations, language and safety go hand in hand. Especially in construction and healthcare, language problems can cause major risks.

About 2.5 million Dutch have literacy problems. According to a study by Greenports, the number of international employees increased from 357.7 thousand to 540.6 thousand from 2010 to 2020. The construction sector, for instance, is increasingly having to deal with employees and (sub)contractors who are not from the Netherlands and therefore do not have full or no command of the Dutch language.

For these people, information in Dutch, such as complex safety protocols, cannot be followed. This can lead to miscommunication and industrial accidents. We would be happy to tell you how to tackle this problem with document and incident management software.

In what ways do language problems due to internationalisation pose a risk?

Internationalisation is leading to an increase in diverse languages within companies. This can be harmful for mutual communication as well as for safety within a company. In recent years, the number of language-related industrial accidents has been around 10%. That percentage has been stable for a long time, so it is fair to say that language is very important in the work environment.

Industrial accidents due to language problems are partly caused by the fact that work and safety instructions are often written primarily in Dutch. Meanwhile, many organisations dealing with multiple nationalities have translated them into English, and perhaps another language such as German or French.

Unfortunately, this does not solve all the problems. For many, English is not the mother tongue and it is questionable whether the translations are 100% correct. In addition, research shows that 50% of safety documents are insufficiently readable by employees because the language level used is simply too high.

Taalproblemen door internationalisering

Language problems among Dutch-speaking employees also pose risks

Language problems also play a role among employees who speak the Dutch language. In fact, we still face illiteracy and low literacy in the Netherlands.

It is estimated that some 1.8 million Dutch people, who are part of the working population, have literacy problems. More than half of them have a Dutch background. The big question then is: how do you go about giving work and safety instructions to workers who cannot read well?

A similar challenge exists for people with dyslexia. Suppose an incident occurs and a protocol has to be followed. Should we then expect someone with dyslexia to have memorised it? Or do we wait until things really go wrong because he or she does not get through the protocol fast enough?

A final group that should also be mentioned here is the group of people with a hearing or visual impairment. Here, too, you have to deal with a language barrier.

Overcoming language barriers thanks to solid software solutions

Language barriers obviously will not be solved overnight, but software can help. Zenya’s risk management software helps you identify the risks of language barriers thanks to risk analysis. From there, you can find and implement solutions so that everyone has a safe workplace.

How can you solve language problems to reduce the risk of industrial accidents? Our answer is: good document and incident management.

Offer a mix of materials using document management

Make important documents, processes and work instructions available in multiple languages, preferably in the employees’ native language. This may seem like a lot of work, but when you use a document management system like Zenya DOC, fortunately the management is a lot easier. Linking different language versions of one document makes version management and updates manageable.

Information can also be captured in ways other than written text. Choose, for example, a video, spoken instruction or animation. By doing so, you address employees in a different way. And that is not just a solution for language problems. Everyone learns differently, regardless of language level. By offering material in different ways, you make the learning process easier for everyone.

steeds internationaler en dus meer talen

Now you’re wondering how to keep all this information organised? With interactive documents in Zenya DOC, you can offer a lot of information, in different ways, in one document. So also information in different languages. Employees only have to answer some intuitive questions to get to the right information.

In short: create a mix of materials and languages that makes everyone feel addressed. No matter what language they speak or how they learn. You can also make information easily available to blind or deaf employees or people with dyslexia in this way.

Gain insight into common risks with incident management

Do dangerous situations arise or industrial accidents occur? Then it is important that these incidents are reported as much as possible. By reporting incidents, you gain insight into common problems within your organisation. This allows you to discover weak spots and improve them.

Low-threshold incident management software like Zenya FLOW contributes to employees’ willingness to report. Reporting incidents is easy via this software and you can link actions to certain reports. That way, you handle incidents adequately.

Besides handling incidents, it offers tools that allow you to perform incident analysis. Does this show that you can still improve the language in your organisation? Then you can take improvement measures.

Keep improving on safety and language with Zenya

You obviously want language to no longer be a barrier within your organisation, but how do you go about it? For instance, involve low-literate or hearing-impaired employees in safety protocols using videos. Or make all documents available in the native language of international employees.

Zenya DOC is the ideal software for managing documents and images in various languages. Does a particular security protocol need an update? No problem! Thanks to this software, you always have the latest version of a document at hand, in any language.

Do things still go wrong? Then use Zenya FLOW to map incidents. That way, you will discover where you can still make improvements.

Thanks to Zenya:

  • Reduce the risks created by language problems;
  • Involve your employees;
  • Create a safe working environment for everyone.

Are you experiencing language challenges in your company or organisation? Then get in touch with our experts or request a free demo!

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