Evia and Patriarca’s article, Beyond Compliance: Participatory Translation of Safety Communication for Latino Construction Workers, discusses challenges that Latino construction workers face with workplace safety communication materials. The article explains the construction industry’s standard hierarchy—contractors, subcontractors, and labor specialists. Even with this hierarchy, each specific job title requires unique “communication styles and needs, even with native speakers of the same language” (341).
When one considers how many different ethnicities are represented in the construction industry, it makes the communication process that much more difficult. The article states that “the most tangible product of these communication problems involving Latino construction workers is the high incidence of workplace injuries and fatalities” (341). Also, Latino’s workplace death risks are “40% to 80% higher than it is for their non-Latino peers” (341). These findings provide enough information to show that technical communicators have difficulty in developing effective workplace safety and risk communication materials for a universal audience. Especially since most of the available materials have “an intended audience of English-speaking natives” (343). Technical Writers are faced with a difficult communication barrier. Thus, it is important for Technical Writers to gather suggestions from Latino workers in order to improve communication in the construction industry.
Most technical materials and manuals are filled with wordy paragraphs; the content is there, but it is not put into plain terms. In technical writing, simplicity is key; especially when dealing with valuable workplace information. Also, technical writers need to shape their writing style for an intended audience in order for information to be well-received. A key recommendation to improve communication in the construction industry is to include visuals within the accessible materials. Not only are visuals simple, they do not have to be translated for different cultures. As seen in Figure 2 in Evia and Patriarca’s article, Latino workers drew different work hazards that are present in the workplace. These images support the importance of simplicity that is so relevant in technical writing.
Overall, this article made me think a lot about Project 2. For this project, we are working with the Cranwell International Center to help the office revise forms and handouts for international students at Virginia Tech. As the revisers of these documents, it is important to make sure that natives from over 100 different countries can easily understand each document. Also, we must focus on a large-scale audience; and our audience does not have the same primary language. Keeping Evia and Patriarca’s ideas in mind, it could be very beneficial to add visuals to our revised documents. As a group, we must keep our main audience in mind while we conduct interviews with international students, perform content editing, and test the documents’ usability.