After an initial pilot effort, XL Group plans to expand a program that teaches Spanish to clients’ construction site managers so they can communicate the need for worker safety directly to their employees.
XL Group initially began the effort a year ago with its North America Construction insurance business, of which workers compensation is a component. The insurer and reinsurer teamed with Red Angle, a company that offers industry-specific Spanish language training, to enable construction site managers to communicate construction safety needs to their Latino workers. Client feedback from the program’s first year has been more than encouraging and is leading to its expansion to other XL Group business units, Brian Poliafico, XL Group’s construction risk engineering team leader, told Carrier Management in a telephone interview.
“Clients are going out and their [construction site] superintendents are able to use the [Spanish] skills they have been taught,” Poliafico said. He added the program has also been “well embraced” by predominantly Spanish-speaking work crews.
“Without a doubt it is making an impact,” he said. “When [employers] demonstrate they can generally care for employees they will get better workers – they will work safer and they are going to be more productive.”
They way the initial program has been structured, Red Angle offers construction industry-specific Spanish lessons in two modules: Construction Spanish and Safety Spanish. The lessons are contained in 8 minute videos give every day for six weeks along with additional reference materials. Poliafico said the effort goes well beyond Spanish-language-focused risk-reduction efforts currently in use among insurers, which range pocket dictionaries to language-specific posters.
XL’s idea was that something more was needed, based on statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that showed Spanish-language workers had much higher and worse injuries than their English-speaking counterparts.
“Overall, workplace fatalities have dropped 20 percent in the last decade,” Poliafico said, citing OSHA statistics. But “workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers, particularly in construction, have risen almost 35 percent” over the same period.
“By educating foreman, supervisors, superintendents, and giving them the necessary means to communicate with their workers, specifically in construction Spanish, our goal is that there is effective communication [that] reduces the frequency and severity of injuries among that demographic,” Poliafico told Carrier Management. “It’s pretty simple.”
Since the program’s launch a year ago, as many as a dozen large construction firm-clients have signed on for the XL/Red Angle effort, with a number of their construction managers taking part in the training, Poliafico said.
He added that the effort also garnered a positive response when presented at the recent Associated General Contractors convention.
XL Group and its subsidiaries offer insurance and reinsurance in the property/casualty and specialty space to industrial, commercial and professional firms.