Most workers are familiar with the acronym OSHA insofar as they know it has to do with their workplace safety. As a result, it may seem strange to think about how interpreting could connect to any kind of occupational risk. But an interpreter is sometimes needed for a session in an environment where reasonable protections need to be in place. They are entitled to the same coverage as regular employees, so it behooves employers to know how OSHA rules apply. Additionally, interpreters are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these regulations too, to ensure they feel comfortable on an assignment.
OSHA training courses
OSHA training courses are usually focused on helping employers create a non-hazardous space for all present. Given that almost all private businesses are required to comply with the Act’s guidelines, there’s something for everyone to learn. Global Arena’s course is no exception, but it goes further by considering how these issues apply to onsite interpreters. Even if you think you know everything about occupational safety, a refresher to cover these finer points is always useful. The course’s modules cover a range of topics:
History of OSHA
History: OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Act, becoming law in 1970, following rapid industrial developments in the USA. Prior to its passage, industrial workers often had to rely on labor unions for protection or compensation after an accident. One motivation for the law was to stem these accidents before they happened, reducing both employee concerns and employer predicaments. Note that there are exceptions to the rules; some family businesses and government entities are not required to be compliant. (However, other laws usually cover these cases, and regardless, it’s not unwise to follow OSHA guidelines of your own volition.)
Employer and Employee Responsibilities:
Everyone in a company has some level of responsibility to pay attention to the workspace, watching out for possible hazards. From the employees’ side, they must document issues as they find them, and bring them to the attention of managers. The managers and other higher-ups in turn must immediately try to rectify any situation that causes employees risk or unease. Given OSHA’s industrial heritage, one goal of this process is to vertically build trust through open communication and mutual respect. If employees feel that their needs are not being met or even addressed, that aggravates any accident that might occur.
Managers should arrange for regularly scheduled visits by OSHA inspectors to verify that their workplaces are performing their due diligence. Many businesses, even seemingly low-risk offices, have OSHA guidelines and a record of compliance posted somewhere for employees to see. An important component here is awareness: everyone should know the rules, what they entail, and how to follow them. This module will help you navigate an inspection, but the easiest way to pass is to follow the rules in the first place.
Violations of OSHA:
Despite employers’ best efforts, a violation—inadequate protection from a hazard, a developing structural problem in the office—sometimes sneaks through. When this happens, it is incumbent upon anyone who observes the violation to immediately report it to their manager. OSHA has strict reporting and risk mitigation procedures that must be understood by all employees at all levels. Following the previous paragraph’s advice, the easiest way to fail an inspection is to neglect these steps when problems arise.
So, while all this information is generally useful, you may still be wondering: how do the interpreters fit in? If you need an interpreter on a construction site or in an industrial plant, the relevance of OSHA is clear. And interpreters should be cognizant of possible risks or violations, obvious or otherwise, in any workspace. But less apparent is the need for interpreters during a company-wide OSHA training, for businesses that employ limited English-speaking people. When a company schedules a session about how to handle inspections and violations, everyone should be able to understand everything. If you’re an interpreter, knowing the finer points of the regulation can help you better articulate this information to others. And unfortunately, there are also moments where a legal interpreter may be needed after an accident or injury. Having an understanding of OSHA regulations in the courtroom is highly beneficial for such cases.
It’s difficult to understate the benefits of this more nuanced understanding to a single, straightforward principle: workplaces should be safe. As businesses are legally held to a certain standard of risk management, everyone within them should be aware of that standard. By completing an OSHA training module, you can be certain that you have the requisite knowledge to handle risky situations.