SSaW Project Takes A Step Towards Safety

Signed Safety At Work

New Erasmus+ project supports health and safety in the workplace by facilitating communication


Since November 2018, the Signed Safety at Work consortium has been working to enhance health and safety communication in noisy workplaces.

SSaW is creating a sign vocabulary (based on International Sign) of around 200 essential Health and Safety phrases. Workers will be able to use this vocabulary to quickly sign urgent safety messages to colleagues.

The vocabulary is based on common safety phrases used in manufacturing and construction. Examples include “Danger of falling objects” and “Stop the machine!”.  The phrases are also aligned with the European Framework Directive 89/391 on Safety and Health at Work.

Manufacturing and construction are industries which:

  • are noisy (so it’s difficult to shout a message to colleagues)
  • have long-term employees who become hearing-impaired (because of working in a noisy environment)
  • have migrant employees (sometimes with difficulty communicating in the local language)
  • have Deaf employees (sometimes with difficulty communicating in spoken language)

Having a way to sign urgent messages makes it easier for several groups of people to work together (people with different levels of hearing and speaking capability).

The more quickly people can pass urgent messages, the safer they will be in the workplace.

Employers sometimes worry about health and safety communication so much, that they are less likely to employ deaf or hearing-impaired employees, so our project will also encourage employment for this group.

Older employees, who have a lot of essential on-the-job experience, may find it difficult to continue working if they become hearing-impaired during their working life, and find it harder when colleagues communicate with them. Our project encourages them to stay on in the workforce, which retains vital skills that could otherwise be lost.

Creating a sign vocabulary is just the first part of the SSaW project. When the vocabulary is ready, the next stage is to create an online glossary, so that people who want to use our vocabulary can easily find any word or phrase they want to use.

The online glossary will show a video of each sign vocabulary phrase. It will then provide a written translation and a sign language translation for one of three partner countries:

  • United Kingdom: English and British Sign Language
  • Austria: German and Austrian Sign Language
  • Italy: Italian and Italian Sign Language

Having the glossary available in three language pairs means that deaf and hearing people will be able to learn the sign vocabulary, and use it to communicate with people in another of the partner countries. This increases the possibility of mobility for people who learn the vocabulary. For example, someone working in the UK could learn the vocabulary, and then transfer to a workplace in Austria or Italy, and still use the same vocabulary for urgent messages.

As well as the online glossary, the project will create an eLearning course so that both companies and individual employees have a user-friendly and engaging way to learn and practise the sign vocabulary.

The eLearning course will also be offered to VET colleges and other training providers, so that they can include it in relevant courses as an extra offer for their students.

Finally, the project will produce guidelines about career options in health and safety specifically for deaf and hearing-impaired workers.

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