Subcontractor Safety Onboarding: Overcoming the Language Barrier

21 July 2023

Safety has to be a top priority for construction, especially given that construction-related occupations account for 41% of the 34 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Even more concerning is that construction had its worst fatality rate in a decade in 2020. Safety training is a key component of every effective safety program, and that includes subcontractors, who typically undergo onboarding prior to beginning work on a site. And given that many subcontractors don’t speak English as a first language, the difficulty communicating key safety information in their orientation can significantly increase their safety risk. 

After all, safety training doesn’t do any good if the people undergoing the training can’t understand it, and far too often, that’s the case for subcontractors. Here’s what typically happens. The subs arrive on site in the first morning of work and are ushered into a trailer, where one of the general contractor’s safety people conducts training … in English. Likely, some if not most of the subcontractors in the room are not native Spanish speakers who do not have a complete command of English. 

In the best case scenario, a bilingual worker is pulled off their job to act as a translator, a job for which they are undoubtedly not trained, so the quality of their translations may vary quite a bit in their accuracy and quality. But in some cases, the subs will just have to do the best on their own they can to comprehend the safety information they’re being given in a language they may not fully understand, if at all. The end result is that non-English speakers end up frustrated and potentially, without critical safety information that they need to ensure they don’t suffer an on-the-job injury, which is no good for anyone.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

GoContractor provides construction companies with a SaaS-based safety Orientation tool that enables subcontractors to complete safety training and assessments on any device at any time. And because the platform is bilingual, Spanish-speaking subcontractors can access the same safety content in their own language. 

Here’s how it works. The construction organization uploads training materials to GoContractor, which can be in multiple languages. Subcontractors will receive a digital invitation, and they can do the training on any device, including smartphones, tablets and laptops. After creating a profile and uploading any certifications that are required, they spend about 30 minutes doing the virtual training and assessment. 

When they arrive on-site, English and Spanish-speaking subs alike arrive up-to-speed on safety and ready to work, while the construction organization now has a digital record that managers can access from anywhere. Anytime a manager needs to know who’s onsite with what qualifications, the information is right there at their fingertips. Plus, it strengthens the company’s legal position in case litigation arises. 

The feedback we’ve received from Spanish-speaking subcontractors who have used the GoContractor platform has been overwhelmingly positive, giving the training a net promoter score (NPS) of 96 – 100 across multiple different general contractors. Here’s just a small sample of what they’ve had to say: 

  • “Muy bueno el curso y muy bien explicado” (Great course and explained very well)
  • “Muy ilustrativo el curso y de gran ayuda muchas gracias” (The course was very illustrative and helpful. Thank you so much!)
  • “Informativo. Esto es mejor que hacer la orientación en un grupo grande, hay menos distracciones. Es más fácil prestar atención.” (Informative. This is better than doing the orientation in a large group, with fewer distractions. It’s easier to pay attention.)

With the aid of a technology platform purpose-built for subcontractor onboarding, construction companies can ensure that everyone, no matter what language they understand best, receives clear, consistent, high quality onboarding training – with a digital record to prove it. If you’d like to learn more about how GoContractor can help make your subcontractor onboarding process more comprehensive and efficient. Reach out today to schedule a free demo and discover how top construction companies are using GoContractor to digitally onboard workers.

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