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Tips for working with non-English speaking employees in manufacturing

The number of non-English speaking workers in the US has grown steadily for years now and has shown no sign of slowing. Right now, in fact, roughly 11% of jobs in America are filled by those who speak no English at all; in manufacturing plants or other laborious jobs, that number frequently rises to over 50%. As a result, it is not uncommon for manufacturing workers to work with people who either don't speak English at all or speak very little.

While this may present various challenges to English speaking workers, there are a number of things you can do while working with non-English speaking employees in manufacturing.

Make sure your employees are documented and legally allowed to work in the US.
The first thing you should do when hiring non-English speaking employees is make sure they are documented, or legally allowed to live and work in the US. Neglecting to do this could result in serious fines or more for you and your business. Authorities are cracking down on not only illegal immigrants, but those who hire them as well. In addition, fake Social Security cards and identity cards are sometimes used at times of hire by undocumented workers. It is important to know how to spot these.

Pay attention to driving records too, particularly if you use commercial vehicles. As with all employees, you should have the insurance company run a check on the driver's license to make sure they are clear.

Find other ways to communicate.
While not everyone in your manufacturing plant may speak another language, you can still find other ways to communicate with your employees and fellow workers. Consider posting signs that demonstrate how to use various equipment, and make sure you at least have safety precautions as well as the physical demands and safety hazards of the job posted in the other language.

Consider hiring a bilingual worker or a translator.
People who are bilingual are in high demand these days, and for good reason. You ay want to hire a bilingual employee or two for your manufacturing operation. While bilingual employees typically make up to several dollars per hour more, hiring someone who speaks English and another language, usually Spanish, could save a lot of time and hassle. This is especially important if you are reviewing complicated procedures or projects that need to be thoroughly understood.

Encourage immigrant employees to learn English.
English is still the predominant language in this country, so it's a good idea to encourage your non-English speaking employees to learn English. Perhaps your plant could even host classes.

Be aware of cultural differences.
Barriers when working with non-English speaking workers extend beyond the language difference. Many immigrant workers work more than one job, and these long hours can translate into fatigue on the job. In a manufacturing plant where there is heavy and dangerous machinery, this can be especially risky. Keep an eye out for workers who may look fatigued.

Make an effort to learn certain words.
While it could take years to become fluent in, say, Spanish, employees may want to consider making an effort to learn key phrases and words that have to do with the job, particularly with regards to instructions and safety.

These days, the number of non-English speaking workers in increasing dramatically. However, the language barrier doesn't mean you can't provide a safe working environment in your manufacturing plant. The above tips will help you to work with non-English speaking employees in your manufacturing plant.

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