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The differences between US & UK English in the health and safety industry

  • Publish Date: Posted over 3 years ago

​Founded in the United Kingdom in 2005, Shirley Parsons is now the largest specialist EHS recruitment firm in the world.

We entered the North American market in 2014 and have since established two offices in Boston and Los Angeles, helping hundreds of EHS professionals achieve their career aspirations along the way.

As our team continues to grow globally, we have come to realize that there are many different twists between the United Kingdom and the United States – both language and industry-wise. For instance, in the U.S., we most commonly use and understand the acronym ‘EHS’. On the other hand, the U.K. uses the acronym ‘HSE’. Both acronyms stated comprise the same three letters with the same representation of words - just in a different order; health, safety and environment.

Therefore, we brought together our UK and US teams to help compare British and American English, ‘to-may-toe’/’to-mah-toe’ style, and settle the debates once and for all… kinda.

Common items, different words

As you can see in these videos, our US and UK representatives had some fun and laughed (mainly at each other) while debating the names of various common items.

Food throws up some interesting differences between the two countries. Chips? I think you mean French fries. Fancy a nice refreshing ice lolly on a sunny day? Guys, it’s a popsicle. How about porridge for breakfast? (That’s oatmeal here in the US).

Transport also highlights different words for the same item. How can the hood of a car be called a ‘bonnet’? What do you mean by a shopping trolley? It’s a cart.

Which name do you think makes more sense for each object? Leave a comment or cast your vote to let us know!

EHS is important, whichever language you speak

At face value, this is all good fun, but it shows the importance of understanding each other, and understanding business, clients and health and safety in other territories.

Of course, that means understanding the nuances between words, phrases and acronyms between the United States and the United Kingdom. To illustrate the point, think about what we call OSHA - the Occupational Health and Safety Administration - in the US. Over in the UK, the equivalent would be the HSE - the

Health and Safety Executive.

American workplace safety is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, while the UK legislation is termed the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.

These are just differences in the same language, so it really highlights the importance of clarity and knowledge sharing, especially in a time where global communication and collaboration is so important.

Anyway, it’s probably time to call it a day, put on a sweater/jumper, head down to the parking lot/car park in the elevator/lift and go home to our apartment/flat.

Maybe we can settle this later over a game of noughts and crosses. I mean tic tac toe.