'I see dead people' + 3 other common sensibilities

An obstacle to better jobsite safety is the English-Spanish language gap. Here are three Spanish phrases you can use to communicate the obvious—but essential—on the jobsite

April 10, 2013
Hispanic jobsite accidents_jobsite safety_increase jobsite safety with these three Spanish phrases

M. Night Shyamalan, the director of The 6th Sense, was opposed to including what has become one of the most memorable movie lines of all-time, “I see dead people.”  

Mr. Shyamalan thought including “I see dead people” was too obvious.  
He didn’t want to spell it out for the audience. He didn’t want to make it too easy.
The production crew on The 6th Sense rebutted. 
It may be obvious to you, but it’s not obvious to everyone else.
The classic line was reinserted and, for better or worse, The 6th Sense is now largely known as the “I See Dead People” movie. 
There’s a lesson here: While something may seem obvious to you, it may be less than obvious to the team around you. 
Err on the side caution.  
Better safe than sorry… because we can all overlook the obvious.
For example, a local OSHA Area Director recently informed a group of safety professionals about two of their local emphasis programs: Ladder Safety and Landscaping.
He admitted there is no new territory to cover in either case.
The safety concerns are obvious.
But … cases are on the rise for both. 
For ladders, he noted the same things you see every day.  
Workers leaning an A-Frame ladder like it’s an extension ladder. 
Workers using a 16-foot ladder when they need a 20-foot ladder.
In Landscaping, it was workers cutting off branches they were standing on. It was severed fingers due to moving blades.
Nothing new. All fairly obvious.
An obstacle to communicating obvious risks on the jobsite is the English-Spanish language gap. The results are tragic: Hispanic construction workers are nearly two times as likely to be injured or killed on the job compared with other ethnicities. 
The cause seems obvious: Construction managers predominantly speak English. Hispanic construction workers predominantly speak Spanish.  
So, what can you do?  
Start with the following three Spanish phrases as you communicate the obvious on the jobsite. 
Say it early.
Say it often.
Use your index finger to identify the concern.
Slow down
“Time is money” translates in every language. While the schedule is important, pushing crews to work faster can be counterproductive. Encouraging workers to slow down can increase quality while decreasing the risk of injury. 
Catch people doing something right. As you find Hispanics working safely, recognize the positive example they are setting. Appreciation is a human need that transcends cultures and ethnicities. Say “Excelente” often and throw a “gracias” on the end to say, “Excellent … Thank you.” 
These suggestions are obvious. 
It may feel like you are spelling it out for the audience.
It may feel like you are making it too easy.
But Hispanics are disproportionately more likely to be injured or killed on your job.
While the risks may be obvious to you, it may not be obvious to them. 
Unlike Señor M. “Noche” Shyamalan, you will not be rewarded when people see your job and say, “I see dead people.” 
El Presidente

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente of Red Angle, a Spanish language training firm focused exclusively on the construcción industry. Hartmann has been successful improving Safety, Productivity and Profitability by speaking Spanish on the jobsite. Hartmann lived in Guadalajara, México, during his undergraduate studies and later earned his MBA. Hartmann also teaches Construction Spanish at Purdue University’s Building Construction Management Program. He has authored two books: Spanish Twins: Start Speaking Spanish on the Construction Site with Words You Already Know and Safety Spanish: Simple Spanish Skills for Solving Safety Problems. Hartmann would love to hear your thoughts digitally at bradley@redanglespanish.com or at 630.234.7321.