Responding to the needs of culturally diverse workforces is essential for improving organisational success

The report, 'Diverse cultures at work: ensuring safety and health through
leadership and participation', published this month, reveals that there can be
serious consequences resulting from a lack of awareness of cultural difference,
but that it is possible for organisations to be more inclusive and use
diversity to positive effects, as a resource for learning, change and renewal.

The importance of practising such techniques is highlighted by Dr Christa
Sedlatschek, Director of EU-OSHA, who explains: 'A precondition for business
success is healthy and motivated employees, especially in times of growing
pressure on market competition. Workers with a migration background have to
face specific language and cultural challenges, which is also mirrored in
higher accident and sick leave rates than national workers.'

As the proportion of the labour force that is composed of migrant workers
within the EU continues to grow, many EU workplaces are becoming increasingly
culturally diverse. Poor communication and misunderstanding may arise as a
result of cultural differences and can result in tension and stress, reduced
job satisfaction and higher staff turnover. An increased occupational safety
and health risk may be present, in part, because, in a multicultural work team,
individual perceptions of what is safe may vary. Research has also shown that
miscommunication owing to cultural differences has played a role in 70-80 % of
all maritime accidents.

One case study highlighted is that of the car manufacturer BMW in Munich that
has applied a new initiative to integrate workers from different countries of
origin. The initiative trained management on how to better deal with cultural
diversity and introduced 'health ambassadors'; workers, many of whom were
migrants themselves, who were trained in health promotion and held an important
mediating role among their colleagues. This helped to overcome typical language
and social barriers for migrant workers, who often do not take advantage of
company health promotion offers.

The report recommends that a constructive safety climate, which is shared by
all those in a diverse workforce, needs to be established. The report applies
cross-cultural theories to the workplace and demonstrates how leadership and
worker participation are key to improving safety and health in culturally
diverse workplaces. It recommends that managers adapt their leadership style,
address language barriers, effectively train workers to overcome intercultural
issues and nurture an inclusive working environment.

The report will prove an essential tool for improving safety and health
outcomes in culturally diverse organisations, adding to EU-OSHA's Healthy
Workplaces Campaign on ‘Working together for risk prevention'. In line with the
campaign's spirit of working together, it is emphasised that the management of
occupational safety and health in culturally diverse working environments
demands an approach that includes multiple voices.

More information - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work