Businesses should address cultural diversity

7th of June 2013
Businesses should address cultural diversity

Addressing cultural diversity in the workplace can greatly impact on occupational safety and health, says a new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

The report, ‘Diverse cultures at work: ensuring safety and health through leadership and participation’, 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.

Dr Christa Sedlatschek, director of EU-OSHA explained: "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."

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.

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.


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