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With so many cultures now found on the jobsite, what types of accommodations do you think can be made to help eliminate the dangers associated with cultural barriers? Is this a real or perceived issue for you?

Cultural Diversity and Its Effect on
Construction Safety Plans
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit V
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
1. Evaluate emerging issues related to construction sites.
1.1 Integrate issues of cultural diversity into the building of a site safety plan, especially as they
relate to meeting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for
1.2 Recommend solutions to cultural diversity issues through arriving at proper root cause analysis
in an accident scenario.
Learning Outcomes
Learning Activity
Unit Lesson
Chapter 20
Webpage: Mapped: The Most Common Non-English Languages in the US
Unit V Essay
Unit Lesson
Chapter 12
Webpage: OSHA Training Standards Policy Statement
Webpage: Personal Protective Equipment: Overview
Unit V Essay
Chapter 14
Unit V Essay
Required Unit Resources
Chapter 12: Construction Safety and Health: Program and Policies
Chapter 14: Accident Investigation, Reporting, and Record Keeping
Chapter 20: Environmental Safety and ISO 14000
In order to access the following resources, click the links below.
Miller, H. (2018, February 20). Mapped: The most common non-English languages in the US. Matador
Network. https://matadornetwork.com/read/most-common-non-english-languages-us/
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Personal protective equipment: Overview.
Michaels, D. (2010, April 28). OSHA training standards policy statement [Memorandum]. Occupational Safety
and Health Administration. https://www.osha.gov/dep/standards-policy-statement-memo-04-2810.html
Unit Lesson
There are many areas where diversity of the population in any given location changes the locale and local
flavor of that area. Most believe that in the current social construct of our working society, cultural diversity is
a new thing and something that must be taken into account. However, this type of diversity has been around
OSH 4310, Special Topics in Construction Safety
for many centuries. History is chock-full of stories and examples of one group UNIT
of people
with and/or
for another group. It is this very issue that creates a special topic in construction
Each person is different. Biology tells us that no one person is exactly the same as another. Even within a
family, there are genetic and biological differences. Two parents who have brown hair and brown eyes can
still have a child with blue eyes and blond hair, depending on the genetic makeup (The Free Dictionary by
Farlex, n.d.). Therefore, is it any wonder that on a jobsite with hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people
there would be differences? The differences can be based on genetics, gender, religion, political ideology,
social items, regional specifics, and more. A simple example of this is the English language spoken in the
United States of America. There are many regional differences in how people in the United States speak
(Wolfram & Schilling, 2006). If one is from Boston, there is a specific accent. The people from the Deep South
speak another way. Anyone who has ever visited the upper Midwest immediately understands the differences
in dialect. The language differences are simply one example of the diversity found on the jobsite. For the
purposes of this lesson, the student should consider all the areas where employees on a jobsite might be
different and how those differences can affect the implementation of the safety plan.
As mentioned previously, language is one of the overall issues found on the jobsite. Not everyone speaks the
King’s English or the standard, correct English, as one superintendent familiar with this issue called it
(Merriam-Webster, n.d.-a). Not only are there multiple variations to the English language, but there are also
many other languages spoken on jobsites. So, for the safety professional working a jobsite the question is
this: In what language is the safety plan
provided? On any given jobsite there might
be literally dozens of languages spoken. Of
course, the most common non-English
language spoken and understood on
jobsites in the United States would be
Spanish (Miller, 2018). Just like English,
there are many different dialects of Spanish.
From South America through the Central
American states through Mexico, Spanish is
the primary language spoken. There is a
difference between the language spoken in
Mexico and the language spoken in Spain.
There are similarities for sure, and one can
assume that someone working a jobsite
who speaks Spanish can understand
another person from a different country who speaks Spanish (Marques, 2016). The language barrier is
something that must be considered when dealing with the safety plan and procedures. Training needs to be
done in the language the receiver understands (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], n.d.).
There are four parts to a message: the message itself, the transmitter, the receiver, and the medium. The
message is not going to be received and understood nor complied with unless the receiver clearly
understands it (Thoughtful Learning, 2016).
OSH 4310, Special Topics in Construction Safety
Another area where the diverse culture of the jobsite
can be problematic for the safety team is the
religious beliefs of the employees. In some cultures,
religion is a key factor in the everyday life of the
believer. Some religions do not believe that work
should be done on the Sabbath, which is a day of
rest and worship (Merriam-Webster, n.d.-b). The
Sabbath can be different days of the week. How is a
jobsite supposed to get any work accomplished if
half the workforce will not work on the Saturday
Sabbath or the Sunday Sabbath? Some religions
take time each day to pray. Is the jobsite set up for
this circumstance? Will some of the non-believers
have issues with the believers taking time away to
pray? Is this time paid or unpaid?
There are many other religious issues that can crop up on a jobsite. The workday is simply one example of
this cultural issue. The safety plan calls for all employees to follow the plan and has little differentiation
between employees based on their religious beliefs. Yet, with society demanding accommodation for these
differences, there can be trouble brewing.
Gestures and Words
What one group of people believes to be a normal thing can be for another group fighting words. Take the
universally accepted hand gesture which was once meant to be the okay sign: a thumb and pointer finger
touching making a circle and the other three fingers extended up. In today’s world, this gesture has other
meanings and can incite violence on the jobsite (Neiwert, 2018). Without explanation to the entire crew and
those arriving daily on the site, misunderstandings can occur and feelings can become hurt. The hurt
feelings can create a hostile work environment and, therefore, can affect the safety plan on site. Words
used by one group of people can be another group’s call to action. The entire workforce on a jobsite needs
to be sensitive to these words or gestures so that the workplace does not become a place where people
become uncomfortable.
Personal Dress
Dress issues on the site are another area where diversity affects the safety plan. In some cultures, long
braided hair or matted locks of hair (known as dreadlocks) can have multiple different meanings (DouglasGabriel, 2015). Some of these hairstyles can be quite long and bulky. How does one enforce the hard-hat rule
when the hard hat cannot be worn on the head as stipulated by the manufacturer or by the American National
Standards Institute? The same goes for head coverings. If the hard hat is not on the head properly, how does
it provide that protection needed for the employee? In order to accommodate the needs of each group of
people, does the safety team have to come up with ways to fit the PPE to the person, or is it the employee’s
responsibility to meet the safety standard as set forth by the site safety plan? OSHA does not have anything
to say about this other than accommodations must be made. Jewelry can be an issue in the same way. It
would seem that different solutions must be considered in these circumstances.
Gender and Body Differences
The basic differences between the male and female of the human species are an issue. The personal fall
arrest system, PFAS, has traditionally been designed to fit the male body. This system consists of a harness,
lanyard, and anchor point tie off. Leg straps fit a certain way. Chest and shoulder straps also must fit a certain
way to provide the protection necessary in a fall from height. If the harness is not fitted correctly to the
employee and they must utilize the harness in a fall, the harness can actually create a more dangerous
circumstance. Depending on the size proportions of the individual, an off-the-rack harness might not fit
correctly. Recently on a site inspection, it was noted in a violation that a rather large person had on a harness.
The harness was too small for the person. The leg straps would not attach around the persons rather large
thighs at the groin area. The person did not have any other harnesses to choose from so this person donned
the harness and did not attach the leg straps. The employee was noted to be almost 30 feet off the ground
OSH 4310, Special Topics in Construction Safety
when the deviation from the standard was noted. When the employee was asked
this deviation,
response was that he was told to get to work and make it snappy. The employee
did not want to get in
trouble, so he did the best he could. Had he fallen while wearing that harness improperly, it probably would
have killed him. The chest strap would have moved up into the chin area of the employee and snapped his
neck. The employee would have fallen out of the harness and hit the ground, 30 feet down. People try to
make their PPE fit them. Each piece of the PPE ensemble must fit properly, and the employee must be
trained in how to don the PPE and how to take care of it (OSHA, n.d.). The real question for today’s worker is
simply this: Is the PPE being handed out going to fit the entire population of the workforce? In ergonomics,
the concept is that one must design the PPE to fit males in the 95th percentile and fit females in the 5th
percentile (Riley, 2015). There are individuals who simply fall outside those groups. How does a safety
professional enforce the 100% glove-wearing rule when an employee has extremely large hands and there
are no over-the-counter gloves available? Are specialty gloves made for that person, and who pays for that
specialty item? It has been seen that the employer must provide PPE for the employee, other than
prescription eyewear and normal everyday clothing. Specialty items need to be purchased and provided to
meet the needs of all employees.
The Safety Plan
The basic premise of the safety plan for each site is to protect all those working on the site from the hazards
of the site (OSHA, n.d.). Not all employees will fit into the generic safety plan guidelines. What
accommodations are being made on site for those individual employees who do not fit into the plan? Has it
even been discussed by the makers of the safety plan? For each group of people working on a site and for all
the diversity that each person brings to the site, what parts of the safety plan fail to keep the person safe
because of these differences? Looking back through history one does not have to look too deeply to realize
that these issues have been around since people began working together. However, the differences back
then were not considered since little to no safety features were built into the project. However, in today’s world
safety has become a key factor in the success or failure of the job or project. Therefore, safety plans have
become standard on the job, and adhering to the safety plan has become a mandate from the owners of the
projects. Excuses for noncompliance are unacceptable. Variances need to be made for the culturally diverse
work force that currently staffs our worksites. Fitting the variances into the boiler plate safety plan becomes
the real challenge for the safety professional. From clothing issues to anatomical issues, the safety
professional must consider these diversities. With so many different cultural groups on jobsites in today’s
society, this challenge is only going to become more complex and difficult to maintain.
Douglas-Gabriel, D. (2015, June 12). The cultural ramifications of dreadlocks. The Washington Post.
The Free Dictionary by Farlex. (n.d.). Mendelian ratio. In Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. Retrieved
December 20, 2019, from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/mendelian+ratio
Marques, N. (2016, March 23). How is Spanish in Spain different from Spanish in Latin America? Babbel
Magazine. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/how-is-spanish-in-spain-different-from-spanish-inlatin-america
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.-a). King’s English. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved December 19,
2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/King%27s%20English
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.-b). Sabbath. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved December 19, 2019, from
Miller, H. (2018, February 20). Mapped: The most common non-English languages in the US. Matador
Network. https://matadornetwork.com/read/most-common-non-english-languages-us/
OSH 4310, Special Topics in Construction Safety
Neiwert, D. (2018, September 19). Is that an okay sign? A white power symbol?
Or xjust
a right-wing
Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/09/18/ok-sign-white-powerTitle
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Personal protective equipment: Overview.
Riley, B. (2015). Formula SAE anthropometric reference data 5th percentile female and 95th percentile male.
Formula SAE. https://www.fsaeonline.com/content/FSAE%20Rules95th_2016.pdf
Thoughtful Learning. (2016, January 6 n.d.). How to improve media literacy.
Wolfram, W., & Schilling, N. (2006). American English: Dialects and variation (2nd ed.). Blackwell.
OSH 4310, Special Topics in Construction Safety

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