Red Angle and Purdue University recently began Año Dos :: Year Two of our Safety Spanish Partnership. Nestled within the class known as BCM 457 – Safety – is Safety Spanish.
Our goal is to provide the young Boilermakers with basic Spanish skills needed to communicate safety effectively on the jobsite.
The goal is not fluency; our students will overcome language barriers by communicating the most basic words, phrases & sentences regarding Safety.
If these students leave for the jobsite equipped with, “Hey! You! Put on your hardhat/safety glasses/harness/mask/respirator/gloves/safety vest/boots/etc.!” that’s a pretty good start.
For many students, Safety Spanish is the worse of two evils when it comes to memorizing OSHA statutes and Español.
Their primary objection is this: “We’re in America right? Then why do we have to learn their language? If they’re in America, they should speak English.”
First I explain I’m not in the business of changing anyone’s worldview. It takes too long, costs too much money, and humans as a species are as stubborn as a jackass.
“I’m not here to change your mind or tell you how to think. I will present some information and ask you to judge it for yourself. Based on your own experience and your own common sense, you can form your own opinion and decide how to act moving forward.”
Then I ask how many students had an internship with a GC or contractor.
Every hand goes up.
It’s a requirement at Purdue.
Then I ask how many worked on jobs with Spanish-speakers.
Every hand goes up.
I ask how many communicated with these Spanish-speakers in any way, shape or form.
Every hand goes down.
I ask how many think being able to communicate with Spanish-speaking workers would be beneficial in any way, shape or form.
The majority extend back up… about 25% are unsure.
Their hands make it slightly above their ear, not much farther.
Then I let Pizza Hut do the talking for me.
I show them this slide.
I call on a few students to get their perspective.
“What do you think of Pizza Hut’s marketing campaign?”
“Sure. Pizza Hut makes pizza….”
Then I add this text.
I ask them not to over-think it.
Keep it simple.
“There is an ever-growing number of Spanish-speakers on our jobsites. If you can communicate, manage and lead them – you’ll be more valuable to your employer and you’ll have less BS to deal with. It’s that simple.”
So be like Pizza Hut.
Don’t over-think it.
Pizza Hut sells pizza.
Construction managers manage the site and everyone on it, regardless of language preference.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.
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