Communicating health and safety across languages

WorkSafe has released updated guidance to help Victorian employers effectively communicate health and safety messages in workplaces where multiple languages are spoken.


The Communicating Occupational Health and Safety Across Languages Compliance Code applies to workplaces where the use of languages other than English is required for employees to understand health and safety information, receive training and participate in consultation.

It replaces the 2008 compliance code, with updates to more clearly describe the duties and obligations employers have under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations for communicating health and safety information in appropriate languages.

The compliance code provides practical guidance and advice to employers on:

  • The duties for employers in culturally and linguistically diverse workplaces.
  • How to understand and plan for workforce information needs, including how to build a language profile by identifying language groups within their workforce.
  • Techniques for communicating health and safety across languages.
  • Providing language support to employees, such as using translators, interpreters and multilingual employees.
  • Effective ways to provide information, instruction and training in culturally and linguistically diverse workplaces.
  • Suitable approaches to undertaking consultation.

The updated compliance code includes revised definitions and terminology to reflect current approaches, and renewed information about best practices in translation and interpreting services.

Duty holders are also provided with new examples of cultural barriers that may impact effective communication in workplaces, and further clarity on the role and the limitations of employees acting as multilingual facilitators.

While not mandatory, employers that comply with the compliance code will be considered to have complied with their duties and obligations under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said an ongoing health and safety dialogue accessible to all workers was essential to maintaining a safe workplace.

"Communicating health and safety information is central to reducing the risk of workplace injury and illness," Dr Beer said.

"Employers must ensure their workers receive and understand health and safety information, are able to raise and discuss issues, and are properly trained in safe work practices."