About the Video

Interpreter Safety: Industrial and Conference Environments

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Interpreters are often not provided with even basic safety briefings or risk assessments, despite the fact that we are faced with a particular set of safety risks to which the very nature of our work renders us vulnerable: we are performing an inherently cerebral activity, which requires us to listen and observe very carefully, in such a manner that we may be unaware of the hazards present in our physical environment. If we have taken steps in advance to mitigate any safety risks, however, we can concentrate on doing what we do best: delivering for the customer.

Interpreters should then be actively involved in risk-assessing the work environment with the client, or should actively conduct their own risk assessment, before starting work. If our assessment leads us to believe that, in the current situation, we can’t perform our interpreting activity in a safe manner, we shouldn’t start work until our safety concerns have been addressed. This obviously has to happen before we embark on the activity – not after we have started working. Safety has to come first, rather than being considered a burdensome afterthought.

Risk assessments don’t have to be complex affairs involving masses of paperwork; they can just involve a mental checklist every time you enter a booth or conference room, or every time you set foot in a factory. In some environments, safety briefing or training may be necessary before you are able to work safely.

Interpreter safety starts with your physical and mental condition in advance of your arrival at the work location, too. There’s no doubt that a fit, well-rested interpreter is in a better position to work safely.

Once work has started, interpreters need to be aware of safety issues when they arise and apply the relevant mitigations identified in advance. A “safety culture” should inform our practice, running through it like the writing inside a stick of rock. This doesn’t mean being obsessed with safety; it’s about taking ownership, and understanding that a concern for safety provides positive benefits for us as interpreters.

This video will talk you through a simple set of tools that interpreters working in industrial and conference environments can use before, during and after assignments to help optimise their own safety, and that of colleagues and clients, so that they are able to focus on providing the level of service that their customers want. Examples from real interpreting situations will be used to illustrate each point.


Ken Paver

Originally from Liverpool, Kennedy (‘Ken’) Paver studied Modern Languages at Oriel College, Oxford, and Translation/Interpreting at the University of Kent at Canterbury. On leaving the university in 1988, he worked as an in-house Translator and Interpreter at British Nuclear Fuels plc in Warrington, UK, becoming Head of the Language Services Section, before setting up a business as a freelance translator/interpreter in 1991, operating mainly in the nuclear and conventional power generation sectors and related fields.

He translates from French, German and Dutch into English, and offers French/English interpreting. He continues to work in the same sectors today, specialising in particular in language services for nuclear safety reviews conducted by international bodies, and regularly working on-site at nuclear plants in several countries.

Ken has led teams of translators and interpreters on various international missions and has provided training to power station personnel and managers to help them prepare for safety reviews. He has also worked as a sessional lecturer, teaching specialised translation modules on the undergraduate and Master’s Translation Studies programmes at Aston University between 2007 and 2010. Ken is a past Vice-Chairman of ITI and has been a member of the ITI Admissions Committee and ITI Council. He was a member of the CIOL’s Chartered Linguist interview panel, and was Chair of the Editorial Board of The Linguist, having previously been a member of the Editorial Board, between 2015 and 2018. Ken was co-opted onto CIOL Council in April 2018.


1 hour 8 min

Who should watch it?

Interpreters working – or intending to work – in industrial and conference environments who are interested in taking ownership of safety issues to optimise their own safety, as well as that of colleagues and clients.

What are the benefits to you?

This video will provide you with tools to help you work safely in industrial and conference environments. It is designed to help you be more aware of safety issues, so that you can assess and improve the safety of your working environment, allowing you to focus on delivering optimum performance for your customers.

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