Thursday, 5 November 2009

Treading the fine line

I just sent an email to our Facilities people asking for some lab floors to be stripped and sealed. The guys in the lab are a little concerned about some sensitive lasers and microscopes in the lab and don't want the janitors to be bashing great big floor polishers into them...fair enough! So they're planning on putting up warning signs on the very sensitive bits.

Most of the janitors that work here are South American and so speak Spanish and Portugese. We've had a couple of instances in the past where they've had trouble understanding stupid wordy signs that people have left up for them (I may have been a can tell which ones are mine by the silly smily faces I put all over them).

When I emailed the helpdesk I put in a line saying 'they're planning on putting warning signs up on the very sensitive equipment. Would English suffice or would your operatives prefer Spanish/Portugese?' Then I deleted it...then I put it back in again....then I deleted it.

First off, I was worried that I was somehow insinuating that the janitors wouldn't be clever enough to just be careful having been told by their manager that they should be careful, that we must also put up signs to remind them.

Secondly, I was worried that I was somehow insinuating that, just because they choose to chat to each other in their native tongue, they don't have a firm enough grasp on the english language to understand a warning sign.

When really, all I'm trying to do is make sure the users equipment doesn't get damaged, and that the janitors know where they're at in terms of what they need to avoid.

Political, social and cultural correctness makes my brain turn to mush....I'll just carry on being nice.


  1. Put up the signs in as many languages as necessary. When someone f***** up some very valuable piece of kit, it'll be too late to wish you had.

  2. That's pretty much what I'm doing :D I'm just not gonna ask anyone first!

    I doubt an electron microscope would be a cheap fix!