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Foreign Workers

If you are considering taking on a foreign worker or already employ foreign workers in your organisation it is important to have a written procedure in place to communicate with workers whose first language is not English. Foreign workers must have sufficient knowledge of the English language to function and be safe whilst carrying out their duties. Health and safety law clearly states that it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all employees fully understand general instructions and procedures including health and safety arrangements and details of risk assessments.
How to communicate with workers whose first language is not English.
  • When communicating speak clearly and allow adequate time for the worker to absorb the information.
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself and if this not understood re-phrase.
  • Use clear, simple and direct sentences.
  • Ask questions to ensure you are understood but do not ask closed questions where the answer is yes or no.
  • Use pictorials and signs to help get your message across.
  • If possible pair newcomers with fellow workers who are further advanced at speaking English.
  • Keep a calm aura and ensure the worker feels at ease and not embarrassed about not understanding.
  •  Encourage the worker to ask questions and say if they do not understand or if they require clarification.
  • Always give a handout of the main points discussed.
  • Shorten larger documents and only give out information that applies to the worker.