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Keywords:

  • English as a Second Language (ESL);
  • literacy;
  • occupational health and safety training;
  • worker education;
  • empowerment education

Abstract

Low literacy and limited English proficiency have become a growing concern for health and safety educators. With one-fifth of the workforce reading below an eighth-grade level and possibly another tenth having limited English skills, health and safety educators and unions have increasingly become aware that current training programs often surpass the language and literacy abilities of workers being trained.

This article describes the dilemmas facing health and safety professionals in incorporating knowledge about language and literacy skill levels. It documents creative strategies and new programs, largely based on participatory and popular education approaches, to provide training that simultaneously matches worker needs and leads to worker empowerment.