Why we should use specialist translators for HSE projects

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It is important to use specialist translators for HSE projects

We understand you need to engage with your employees

We have written before about language and communication very often being an overlooked factor affecting workers’ motivation, safety behaviour and productivity. We strongly believe that if you want your employees to engage, you need to speak to them clearly, in their own native language.

Having realised that, the next step is to decide exactly how you’re going to ensure that your employee is communicated to in their own language. After all, the constant challenge of achieving an excellent safety culture is to try and close the gap between how something should be done, and how it actually is done.

There are many options for you to find the right language solutions for your company

You might decide to provide safety videos with subtitles, or have them dubbed. Better still, you might use visuals with hardly any words at all, which often has a far greater impact.

For your training sessions, it might be worth investing in written translations, to help these particular employees and any that come after them, or hire an interpreter for the day or week that the employee does their most significant sessions, who can stand alongside them and verbally translate proceedings.

For official HSE product documentation, you will almost certainly be legally obliged to have them formally translated, to comply with REACH European or international regulations.

The right translator for your HSE project has first-hand experience in HSE environments

Part of why we understand these issues so well is due to our own first-hand experiences in the UK, Europe and worldwide. For example, at QL, all our linguists and directors have lived and worked abroad and we understand the day-to-day challenges of simply trying to exist in a foreign language.

Even those of us who consider ourselves bilingual have occasionally had to take a moment to ensure we’ve correctly understood an instruction at work, or a quickly-garbled phone message.

More importantly for you though, you need to know your translator is familiar with highly specialist, technical environments, particularly when they involve risk management and health and safety.

We fully appreciate the potential impact of misunderstanding an instruction on a manufacturing shop floor, because we used to be the employee who had to understand that instruction to stay safe.

We understand the significance of using the correct information on a product safety data sheet, because we were the ones liable for safely packing and exporting that product.

We understand why construction workers need to work certain hours or wear certain PPE, because we’ve been responsible for their safety.

Crucially, we have an insight into the real-life culture of manufacturing and environments using health and safety. We don’t translate just from a theoretical, linguistic basis (although we’re well-versed in that too), but from one of lived experiences and expertise in your sector:

Real life experience of HSE situations means more effective translations

Fire retardant coveralls for molten splashes, vests for arc flash protection, ear defenders or goggles to wear in different parts of the shop floor or foundry…

If you work with these sorts of PPE, you need safety sheets and documentation to make sure you know they meet the right safety levels.

You also need laundry and storage instructions so that their properties don’t get accidentally worn out before their expected lifespan.

You need to know your workers understand their safety responsibilities regarding those items and won’t, for example, undo the top buttons of their fire suit because they get too hot, or take off their gloves because they’re too unwieldy (both real scenarios we have seen onsite with foundry and refinery workers).

For effective translations to ensure all of the above in the recipient’s native language, you also need a translator who fully understands the significance of the project and the implications of not getting it right.

Of course they should have done the reading, the language research, the studying of the relevant regulations but, who better to translate a document about health and safety procedures for working with molten metal, for example, than a translator who has actually worked in that environment and who has either had to wear such a garment, or market it, report on its effectiveness for an incident report or a tender?

Experts in your sector

When you commission a translator with expertise in your particular field, they can also act as language or cultural consultants for your project.

Any good translator should be able to advise you if your project acronym might be problematic in the other language, but only an expert in your field will be able to point out if the regulation you quote is out of date, not valid in that country, or you’ve accidentally referenced the wrong standard against a product (all examples we have recently dealt with).

A translator who is perfectly competent for one area of business may not be the right one to use for health and safety. You need one who knows the difference between a “hazard” and a “risk”, a “warning” or a “danger”, or why describing something as “Individual Protective Equipment” rather than “Personal Protective Equipment” might be a problem (again, all real examples that we have come across in our work).

Quality Languages for your project

Our linguists and directors are experts in your field, and we don’t just mean we’ve read the books and taken the courses (which we of course have!). We have lived and breathed projects just like yours, meaning we can translate them exactly as you need, to ensure your success.

If you’re in doubt about how to find a specialist translator, check one of the professional institutions for their members or read our piece on how to decide who to use and when.

If your project involves English and one of our ten languages, and you need a specialist, contact us.

Download our guide to commissioning specialist technical translations

Not sure where to start if you need a specialist technical translation? Download our guide on commissioning technical translators, including practical examples and a final checklist.

Tailored for the manufacturing and health and safety environment.

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