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“Hey, Ibrahim, right? You’re new here. Welcome! I’m Eugene.”
Ibrahim smiles and extends a hand to greet his new coworker in the warehouse, who holds up his fist for a bump instead.
“Nice to meet you, Eugene,” Ibrahim says, bumping Eugene’s fist tentatively.
“I’ve been assigned to show you the ropes around here!” Eugene says.
“The ropes?” Ibrahim says, looking around.
“Ah, I’m sorry. It’s just an expression. I’m going to help you get familiar with the warehouse and your role.”
Ibrahim smiles, relaxing a little. The pair walk though the warehouse to Ibrahim’s station.a
“As a picker, you’re responsible for taking items that have been earmarked for shipment and loading them onto these carts to be sent off to the packers.”
Simple enough, Ibrahim thinks.
“Now, it may take you a little time to get used to the role, but everyone has a productivity quota they’re expected to meet. You should be aware of the CPT for each item, and keep your TOT to a minimum.”
As Ibrahim furrows his brow, wondering if he should know what those acronyms mean, another worker approaches with a friendly smile. “Hey Eugene, is that the new OP?”
Organizations and industries have historically used acronyms and expressions as a way to make communication more efficient, as well as to foster camaraderie among workers over a shared language. But as workplaces become more diverse and workforce demographics change, acronyms and expressions can put up an unnecessary language barrier for workers who are new to the country or not yet accustomed to the jargon in their workplace.
Here are a few reasons why spelling terms out and keeping acronyms to a minimum can contribute to a safer workplace.
New workers may already be feeling under pressure
The first few weeks of a new job can be stressful enough for workers who are in a probationary period and trying to learn processes and protocols. Layering on an extensive glossary of terms for them to learn can create an unnecessary layer of stress that could lead to the worker feeling pressure to pretend they understand something they don’t. This poses a potential safety risk to both the new worker and their colleagues.
Though it may not be possible to eliminate jargon and acronyms completely from your workplace, you can ensure that all new workers have thorough training on any unfamiliar terms or acronyms they need to know to do their job safely. Trainers should make sure that readability levels and language choices of both the materials and instruction suit the learners. Let them know that it’s okay to ask questions about terms they don’t understand, and consider pairing new workers with a more experienced partner who can help them learn all the nuances of the workplace, including language.
If your workplace lingo makes people feel like insiders, it also creates outsiders
Being well versed in industry speak or jargon can be a point of pride for some workers, because just like any other language, it takes time and expertise to master. But while being part of an exclusive club can feel good for those inside it, it doesn’t feel great for those who are excluded. Many workers and tradespersons who immigrate from other countries have the same level of experience and qualifications as their colleagues, but the terminology is different or doesn’t translate easily.
Employers can facilitate a psychologically safer workplace and an easier transition for new workers by minimizing the use of acronyms and jargon, starting from the top of the organization. When leaders opt not to use them in external communications, presentations and marketing, it can lead to a ripple effect with managers, supervisors and other workers, helping to make communication more accessible for everyone.
Get in the habit of using plain language throughout your internal communications, such as emails, notices, and posters. If the default assumption becomes that workers aren’t familiar with jargon, its use will diminish over time.
Less acronyms and jargon = more diversity of thought
Having a more diverse workforce has been shown to have many benefits, such as lower turnover, higher productivity and more innovation. A workplace that prioritizes keeping its language accessible is one in which workers feel comfortable to offer ideas and improved ways of doing things.
In most cases, acronyms and jargon are unnecessary. So why not try eliminating them altogether and see how it affects your workplace?
Back at the warehouse, Eugene sees Ibrahim’s anxious expression.
“Oh geez Ibrahim, I’m sorry,” he offers. “Am I coming at you too fast with the lingo?”
“Oh, um, it’s not so bad,” Ibrahim says. “But I don’t know what you mean by CPT or TOT or OP.”
Eugene smiles. “We are trying to cut down our use of acronyms here. Thanks for reminding me that I need to work on it! There are a few terms you do need to be familiar with – let’s go over them together.”
Tips and Tools
Indispensable in warehouses, factories, and yard operations, industrial workplaces rely on forklift trucks for their ability to lift and transport a variety of loads. Forklifts offer many benefits; however, they can also be hazardous for the operator and those around them if not used as intended.
Forklifts have the potential to cause severe injury or death. Their safe operation is the shared responsibility of workers and employers. Many incidents involving forklifts can be prevented with proper facility layouts and route planning, preventive maintenance, housekeeping, ongoing training and education, and safe operating practices.
Tips for safely operating a forklift
Employees are invited to respond to this Canadian Standards Association (CSA) research survey focused on identifying concerns related to workplace psychosocial factors and hazards. The survey also aims to gather information on practices, programs, and policies that are having a positive impact on employee mental health.
The research seeks to understand the significant changes and challenges being faced by employees, share lessons learned, and inform revisions to the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
The study is being conducted on behalf of CSA in collaboration with researchers from Saint Mary's University and research partners, Health Canada, CUPE, and Howatt HR Applied Workplace Research Institute.
After completing the survey, you will have the option to receive a copy of the e-book, “The Coping Crisis” by Dr. Bill Howatt.
Visit www.EmployeePulse.ca to complete the 20-minute survey. The survey is available in English and French, and is open until October 31.
CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.
New Podcast: Take a Stand on Ergonomic Hazards
Preventing any ergonomic injury starts with identifying the hazards and risk factors. Here’s what to look out for when it comes to standing on the job.
Podcast runs: 6:40 Listen to the podcast now
Encore Podcast: Bullying in the Workplace: 6 Tips for Prevention
Bullying in the workplace is recognized as a serious problem that can cause undue stress, anxiety, and low morale among workers. In this episode, CCOHS lists types of bullying behaviour, the psychological impacts it can have, and provides tips for prevention.
Podcast runs 4:28 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Entering a ship’s cargo hold puts workers at a heightened risk of serious injury and should never be requested lightly. CCOHS has released a poster designed to remind managers and crew about the importance of advance preparation for safe cargo hold entry.
Crew members must be adequately prepared before entering the cargo hold. This preparation should include training, a hazard assessment, an entry permit, a communication system, and rescue planning.
Remind managers and crew about the importance of preparation for safe cargo hold entry by displaying this poster on board and in your training facilities.
We’re accepting applications for the Dick Martin Scholarship Award. The contest is open to any college or university student enrolled in an occupational health and safety course or program leading to an occupational health and safety related certificate, diploma, or degree.
Two students will be awarded a $3,000 prize (and their academic institutions will be gifted $500). To be considered, students must complete an online application, submit a cover letter outlining their aspirations of obtaining a career in the health and safety industry, and submit an essay on one of two topics related to occupational health and safety:
CCOHS will accept applications until 11:59 p.m. EST, January 31, 2023. Scholarship rules, essay criteria, and other guidelines are available on the CCOHS website. Winners will be announced in early Spring 2023.
Did you know October is Global Ergonomics Month? Take a look at these CCOHS resources to help raise awareness about ergonomic injury prevention in the workplace.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
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