OSHA to Laundries: Remember Duty to Protect Non-English-Speaking Workers

Bruce Beggs |

WASHINGTON — The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a new directive targeted at reminding employers of their duty to protect Latino and other non-English-speaking workers from hazards.
An enforcement memorandum from Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels directs the agency’s compliance officers to ensure they check and verify that workers are receiving OSHA-required training in a language they understand (the full memorandum can be found here).
“This directive conforms with Secretary (Hilda) Solis’ clear and urgent goal of reducing injuries and illnesses among Latino and other vulnerable workers,” says Dr. Michaels. “These workers represent an integral and essential part of the key industries that keep our country running every day.”
OSHA requires that employers provide training to their workers on certain job hazards and safe methods for performing work. Investigators will now check and verify that training has been provided in a language and vocabulary that the workers understand.
Employers deemed to have failed to provide the proper training could face civil penalties. OSHA is in the process of increasing the overall dollar amount of all fines while maintaining a policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith.
To assist employers in meeting their training obligations, OSHA has created a Web-based assistance tool (which can be found here). It’s intended to help employers with a Spanish-speaking workforce identify the Spanish-language outreach resources on OSHA’s website. While the site includes links to Spanish-language resources, it is intended primarily for English-speaking and bilingual users.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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