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ESL Work Safety
By:Bonnie Denmark

Whether teaching basic skills to English language learners or vocational English as a second language (VESL), English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors can help their students target specific communication skills to help them stay safe on the job.

The Problem

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that, while work fatalities decreased in general from 1996-2004, they increased among foreign-born workers, especially among Hispanics. The CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health determined that lack of knowledge of safety hazards and language difficulties contributed to these work-related deaths.

ESL Objectives for Job Safety

To increase safety on the job, English language learners (ELLs) should be able to understand vocabulary for workplace safety; identify unsafe situations; warn others of a potential hazard; follow directions and ask for clarification; and respond to a workplace injury.

Safety Vocabulary

Safety signs are a valuable teaching tool.

ELLs should be familiar with safety equipment (such as hard hats and eye protection) and safety signs (such as "Caution: High Voltage" and "Eye Wash Station").

Recognizing Hazards

ELLs should be able to recognize workplace hazards---either simulated in the classroom or illustrated in specifically designed classroom materials.

Understanding Directions

Understanding directions helps English language learners stay safe at work.

Students should practice following multipart instructions, asking for clarification ("You want me to...?") and communicating when they do not understand ("I don't understand" or "What does_____ mean?").

Warning and Describing

Students should learn vocabulary to warn others ("Watch out!" and "Stop!" and "Don't touch that!"), describe an injury and call 911. They can role-play averting and responding to workplace hazards.





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