Providing Safety Communication in Spanish

Tara Deering, Technical Writer, Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa, For Bobcat Company, West Fargo, North Dakota | September 28, 2010

In recent years, the number of Hispanic workers entering our country's workforce has soared, which is why Bobcat Company has placed a greater emphasis on providing employers and equipment operators with safety and training resources in Spanish.

Hispanics are not only the largest minority group in the United States, but they're also the fastest-growing population group, accounting for 40 percent of the country's growth between 1999 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So how does this affect the construction industry? Well, there are at least 1.4 million Hispanic construction workers in the country (who make up 15 percent of the construction workforce) and nearly one-third of those workers speak only Spanish.

As the number of Spanish-speaking construction workers increases, more and more contractors are searching for the resources they need to properly train them.

Setting the Standard

Since the mid-1970s, Bobcat has made a priority of providing multilanguage training resources. The company's first efforts included developing pictorials for safety signs to aid operators with language barriers or reading difficulties. Over the years, Bobcat has expanded its efforts by providing operator manuals in other languages including Spanish, as well as creating other operator training resources in Spanish.

"We have always been proactive in regard to the safety and training of operators. We want to provide our training resources not only in English, but also in other languages to better help our customers meet their training needs," says Tom Ihringer, Bobcat product safety manager.

Bobcat marketed its first Spanish operator training course kit for Bobcat® skid-steer loaders in 1993. Today, the training course kits are available in Spanish for Bobcat compact excavators, Toolcat™ utility work machines and certain attachments. The training kits include a VHS videotape, an administrator's guide, course handbooks, an industry safety manual (if applicable), and an attachment pictorial brochure. The training materials make the employer's job easier by reviewing the step-by-step equipment operation basics and delivering a consistent message to operators who take the course.

The training course kits are available for purchase at local Bobcat dealers and online at by clicking on the Training Resources link. But in order to make them even more accessible to customers, Bobcat is developing a training resources website that will feature course information in both English and now Spanish. Employers and operators will be able to view these materials on the Bobcat website in Spanish.

"What we're doing now is creating a Web-based system so that employers and operators who speak Spanish have better access to Bobcat's training resources," Ihringer says.

Seeing the Benefits

Chris Fosland, a Bobcat safety engineer who has helped spearhead the company's Spanish operator training initiative, says the website is an added convenience for contractors wanting to train their Spanish-speaking equipment operators. According to Bobcat, an increasing number of contractors are taking proactive steps to train their operators.

"The sales of our Spanish training course kits have been steady every year," Fosland says. "More contractors are turning to these training resources to train their Spanish-speaking employees."

Properly trained equipment operators are a major consideration of contractors for several reasons. Not only is the training recommended by insurance companies and encouraged by safety organizations, but it also provides direct benefits such as increased productivity.

"It's proven that trained operators are better and more productive operators," Ihringer says. "Training employees also instills a greater sense of responsibility for maintaining the equipment and operating it correctly. That's why training is a win-win for the employees and the employer."