Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Critical Communication: Understanding cultural factors enhances design and delivery of workplace safety training interventions.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Jeffrey L. Levin, M.D. M.S.P.H, University of Texas Health Science Center; Karen Gilmore, M.P.H. University of Texas Health Science Center;Ms. Ann Carruth, D.N.S., R.N., Southeastern Louisiana University; Ms. Amanda Wickman, University of Texas Health Science Center; Ms. Sara Shepherd, M.A.M.S., University of Texas Health Science Center; Mr. Gilbert Gallardo, U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District
Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety; Dr. Matthew Nonnenmann, C.I.H., University of Texas Health Science Center.

The Problem
The U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District, which encompasses the Gulf Coast from Texas to the panhandle of Florida, has the second-highest level of vessel losses and crew fatalities among commercial fishermen, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics.

How Do You Fix That?
First, work to understand these fishermen. The makeup of the commercial fishing population along the United States Gulf Coast is diverse, with many Asian (primarily Vietnamese) shrimpers.

Cultural barriers can get in the way of critical communication and interfere with receptivity to necessary safety training. To successfully communicate, one must understand and embrace its cultural norms.

How Does This Work?
Recognizing these issues, the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education (SW Ag Center), in collaboration with USCG Marine Safety Unit Texas City, added a module for safety training for Vietnamese shrimp fishermen.

Instructors in the SW Ag Center effort developed typical onboard scenarios that a skilled mariner used to instruct a small group of fishermen in Vietnamese on a vessel bridge. The trainees then practiced the various skills.

Future Direction
Feedback has been highly favorable. The project has demonstrated the importance of considering cultural factors, including language, in the design and delivery of workplace safety training interventions. It has increased acceptance of the USCG as partners in safety, and recognition by individual fisherman of their responsibility to be safe at work. Ongoing meetings with multiple USCG stakeholders will focus on further program development.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/winter2010-11/

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp

Pictured on Top Right: Mariners practice signaling and communication skills on the bridge of a shrimp vessel.

Pictured on Bottom Left: In an onboard training presented in Vietnamese, the shrimp fishermen listen respectfully to an experienced mariner.