Addressing cultural diversity in the workplace can greatly impact on occupational safety and health, this according to a new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
The report, ‘Diverse cultures at work: ensuring safety and health through leadership and participation’, reveals that there can be serious consequences resulting from a lack of awareness of cultural difference, but that it is possible for organizations to be more inclusive and use diversity to positive effects, as a resource for learning, change and renewal.
The importance of practicing such techniques is highlighted by Dr Christa Sedlatschek, director of EU-OSHA, who explains: ‘A precondition for business success is healthy and motivated employees, especially in times of growing pressure on market competition. Workers with a migration background have to face specific language and cultural challenges, which is also mirrored in higher accident and sick leave rates than national workers.’
Added Safety Risk on Job May Be Present
As the proportion of the labor force that is composed of migrant workers within the EU continues to grow, many EU workplaces are becoming increasingly culturally diverse. Poor communication and misunderstanding may arise as a result of cultural differences and can result in tension and stress, reduced job satisfaction and higher staff turnover.
An increased occupational safety and health risk may be present, in part, because, in a multicultural work team, individual perceptions of what is safe may vary. Research has also shown that miscommunication owing to cultural differences has played a role in 70–80 % of all maritime accidents.
Constructive Safety Climate is Essential
The report recommends that a constructive safety climate, which is shared by all those in a diverse workforce, needs to be established. The report applies cross-cultural theories to the workplace and demonstrates how leadership and worker participation are key to improving safety and health in culturally diverse workplaces. It recommends that managers adapt their leadership style, address language barriers, effectively train workers to overcome intercultural issues and nurture an inclusive working environment.
Officials believe the report will prove an essential tool for improving safety and health outcomes in culturally diverse organizations, adding to EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Campaign on ‘Working together for risk prevention’. In line with the campaign’s spirit of working together, it is emphasized that the management of occupational safety and health in culturally diverse working environments demands an approach that includes multiple voices.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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