In this article, I want to move into more specifics regarding safety training with Latinos. There are three very specific concepts you must understand and implement if you are to have high levels of success in training safety with Latino employees.
In last month’s article, “Safety Training That Works with Latinos,” we set a base of understanding. We learned what training is and what it does, and we learned some important factors to consider when teaching safety to Latino laborers.
In this article, I want to move into more specifics regarding safety training with Latinos. There are three very specific concepts you must understand and implement if you are to have high levels of success in training safety with Latino employees. They are:
- You must understand machismo.
- You must leverage love of family and responsibility to family.
- You must train with a good dose of show and tell.
Understanding MachismoMost images of machismo, or in American vernacular, the macho man, are negative. Although a case could be made for engendering healthy male self-respect, let’s move past that part immediately.
The Latino culture, specifically the male culture, is greatly influenced by machismo. Machismo is defined as a strong sense of masculine pride or an exaggerated masculinity. It is the opposite of all things feminine, soft or sensitive.
With all due respect, most Latino men have some elements of machismo. Machismo has the same root word as Mach 1, which we know as the speed of light. Mach 1 is all about power and speed, or, in this instance, the appearance of power and speed. Have you ever noticed that a significant percentage of Latino laborers pride themselves on getting things done quickly? They work fast. This is part of machismo, my friend. It can be a good thing, but good things that are out of control quickly become risky things, and risky things can quickly become dangerous to ones self or to others.
Here’s the deal - machismo is a front for our insecurity. It is insecure men putting on an outward facade of security, strength and control. The key to remember here is that it is, in fact, a front. It is a facade that continues to be perpetuated primarily due to social pressure.
It affects how you should view and train safety to Latinos. Many Latinos - and I did not say all- do not want to wear safety glasses, hardhats, build scaffolding or do anything else that makes them appear weak. It is for this reason that it is not uncommon for people to use safety equipment properly while they are being viewed by management, but as soon as management leaves they go back to doing things without these safety precautions. Why do they do this so often? First, they feel safety equipment slows work down (remember Mach 1), and second, to some people it just feels weak.
Right now someone reading this, most likely a Latino, is upset with me. I understand your frustration. I understand that this sounds like I am stereotyping all Latinos. I do understand this. The problem is that it is true far too often. Not all Latinos do this, but far too many do. This is a fact and my goal here is to help our com-panies understand these dynamics and tendencies so they can train to counteract them. We must understand something before we can counteract it. It’s called knowing your enemy, and, to a large degree, machismo is the No. 1 safety enemy of the Latino worker today.
So, here are a few suggestions that may help you counteract the negative effects of machismo in your safety training:
- Don’t openly talk about machismo to your workers. You will just put them on the defensive, and that is not the point.
- Talk more about quality than speed. If you have any type of piece rate program in place, make sure it is tied directly into safety and quality as well as speed.
- Make sure that all your supervisors, superintendents and management team members always wear and use appropriate safety equipment to set a positive example.
Leverage Love of and Responsibility to FamilyWho knows where the line crosses between love and sense of responsibility. One thing is for sure, however, and that is that most Latino men inherently have a good sense for this. When doing your safety training I would strongly encourage using lines like the following:
¿Qué pasa a sus hijos si usted se lesiona seriamente?
What happens to your kids if you get seriously hurt?
Ten cuidado, sus padres dependen de usted.
Be careful, your parents depend on you.
Su esposa lo ama y lo necesita. No tome riesgos.
You wife loves and needs you. Don’t take risks.
The list could go on and on.
You probably already picked up the three great motivators for safety to the Latino male. They are:
There is no sense belaboring this point. You get it.
Train With a Good Dose of Show and TellMany Latino laborers do not read well in Spanish, let alone English. This is not due to them being ignorant or stupid; this is due to lack of educational opportunities in their home countries. Many of them are very bright people. The fact remains, however, that training should be highly visual and highly personal. This means show and tell.
What should you show? First of all, show them how to do something. You show them or have a leader in your company show them. This tells them it is important.
When you have a co-worker show them, it says to them that it isn’t all that important. In fact, it is so unimportant that you can delegate it to a person who is not even an official or a skilled trainer in your organiza-tion.
So, it is not only important that you visually show employees how to do something, it is important who shows them. You are important, a supervisor is important, a safety trainer or job skills trainer is important. A co-worker, to many employees, is not all that important. Train safety visually, but make sure you have the right people doing this training.
Training CampI love role plays. Very few companies do role plays. I love drama. Very few companies do drama. I love it when a team goes into training camp to learn their plays. Very few companies have training camps.
You see, your people are doing some of the most dangerous work in the world, but we don’t role play, we don’t act things out (good and bad) before they happen, we don’t have training camps so we are sure peo-ple know how to act in all situations. No, we just translate (or interpret) things from English to Spanish and tell them and hope against all hope that they get it. Well, they don’t get it, and that’s why the Latino accident rate is so high in this country compared to the Anglo accident rate. It is time we start getting serious about training in the right way. Set up an area of your warehouse, yard or wherever with a training zone that looks and feels like an actual jobsite. Train people in a controlled environment - you could even put in nets to catch them so they can know what it actually feels like to fall off a roof or building. You have heard it said in the sales industry: stories sell. Well, stories do sell. Stories can sell safety. Sto-ries sell.
When was the last time you told a real-life story about someone losing their life, their health, their family? When was the last time you read about how someone got seriously hurt so you could tell his story to your workers? When was the last time you looked up diagrams or pictures on the Internet to visually tell your stories?
Show and tell, my friend. It works. We all looked forward to it in grade school for a reason. If you start showing and telling, your people will actually look forward to your safety meetings. They will actually learn something. They will actually learn to apply those safety lessons. And you - well, you will decrease risk, save money, and just generally feel a lot better about yourself as you watch your lost-time accidents decrease at the speed of light!
Share Your StoriesSince many of us struggle with spinning a good yarn I would like to ask you for a favor. Do you have a story to tell that others could use to promote safety? If you do, please e-mail it to me at the address below.
In my next article I’ll publish a link where people can download those stories. Perhaps we can come up with several stories that will help us all stay a bit safer on the job. Don’t worry, we will change names and locations to protect the fallen.