Good communication – in all languages – critical for improving workplace safety

New Canadians may not understand their safety rights

Good communication – in all languages – critical for improving workplace safety
Jamie Hall

As an employer, you are required to train your workers to be safe on the job, and you likely have a well-developed safety and health program in place to communicate with your workers and help them stay safe.

However, it is possible that this safety information is not fully reaching new Canadians in your workplace. New Canadians may face language or cultural barriers — for example, limited English skills, unfamiliarity with safety equipment or a hesitancy to speak to persons with authority — that prevent them from understanding their safety rights or carrying out their responsibilities to keep themselves and others safe at work.


These barriers put new Canadian workers at risk. According to the Institute for Work and Health, immigrant men are two times more likely than Canadian-born men to get injured at work; workers on the job for less than four weeks had four times as many claims as those in their job for more than one year; and immigrants will account for all labour growth in Canada in recent and coming years.


As an employer or supervisor, you can help improve communication by checking in with new Canadians at your workplace and learning about their backgrounds and cultures. Ask new Canadians if they have any questions or concerns, and let them know that speaking up about safety and health will not affect their job.


It is also helpful to review your safety training with your safety and health committee. Determine whether your materials take into consideration new workers' language ability, literacy level and culture, and see if you can think of co-workers who may need extra support to understand safety training.


Remember, it's hard for your workers to understand safety if they don't understand the language. As an employer, you can play an important role in giving new Canadians a safe and healthy start on the job.


Visit for training and orientation resources that are available in 18 languages.