Studies find that construction jargon may put new, Hispanic workers at risk
Research shows obstacles in safety training.
Specialized language used in the safety training for construction workers may not be understood by those new to the job or Hispanic workers, possibly putting them in danger, according to two Purdue University pilot studies.
Bryan Hubbard, assistant professor of building construction management, and James McGlothlin, associate professor of health sciences, teamed to lead the studies.
"Safety trainers must cover a lot of material in a short amount of time and, therefore, use a lot of jargon and acronyms," Hubbard says. "These terms are familiar to them and those in the industry, but our study found that this lingo isn’t understood by everyone on the construction site. Important information is covered in this training, and not understanding any part of it puts workers at risk."
Hubbard and McGlothlin's studies looked at terms used in the 10-hour safety training by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that all construction workers are required to complete.
The first study looked at construction safety training issues for employees new to construction. Hubbard and his team undertook the study to examine the causes behind the high number of work-related deaths and injuries in the construction industry, which previous studies have indicated are more likely to occur at the beginning of a construction worker's career.
The results indicated that although the training is successful in helping to bring awareness of safety issues on the construction site, many of the interns, who were mostly construction engineering management students at Purdue, didn't understand a large amount of the terminology and acronyms presented during the training. Hubbard says before proceeding with work on the construction site, safety instructors ensured that students understood the meanings of unfamiliar words.
The second study, led by McGlothlin, looked specifically at Hispanic construction workers, who have a high number of fatal accidents on construction sites. The survey looked at workers' perceptions of construction safety, their levels of safety training, and their familiarity with construction terms. Less than 20 percent of Hispanic workers understood any of the terms used in OSHA training, and some terms were understood by only 3 percent.
Hubbard and McGlothlin says a possible solution includes the use of visuals during training, including creating books where nearly every construction-specific word is accompanied by a picture.
The studies were funded by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.