North American Officials Meet to Discuss Workplace Safety and Health

Occupational safety and health officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada meet recently in Mexico and Texas and agreed on criteria to recognize excellence in workplace safety and health programs in all three nations. The group also reached consensus on key elements for establishing effective occupational safety and health management systems.

"Worker safety and health is a high priority for each of our nations and together we are addressing key issues and exchanging ideas in order to produce tangible results that will benefit all of our workers," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "An important part of our joint efforts includes recognizing excellence in workplace safety and health programs and sharing that information with workers and employers throughout North America."

The officials, who serve on one of four subgroups of the Tri-national Occupational Safety and Health Working Group, met in El Paso, Texas and Cuidad JuÁrez, Mexico to discuss best practices, partnerships, voluntary programs and occupational safety and health management systems.

Established under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement's side accord on labor the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) the Trinational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group brings together technical experts from the three nations to advance cooperation and programs in key areas of occupational safety and health. The Working Group is headed by each nation's top occupational safety and health official.

A technical workshop on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Management Systems and Voluntary Protection Programs was held to discuss best practices and lessons learned from all three countries on building cooperation and partnership with companies, and their experiences in implementing their voluntary programs and occupational safety and health management systems. The group also participated in site visits of medium-sized businesses in Cuidad JuÁrez and construction companies in El Paso.

The subgroup agreed on key elements for an effective occupational safety and health management system, including:

  • Management commitment and responsibility
  • Employee involvement and responsibility
  • Worksite analysis and approaches
  • Hazard/risk prevention and control
  • Training

They also established criteria for recognizing best practices in excellence in workplace safety and health programs, including application and evaluation processes, criteria to participate, and a recognition strategy.

The subgroup agreed to meet again during the full working group meeting in April 2003 in Toronto, Canada to focus on specific applications of safety and health management systems. Topics under discussion for future technical workshops include: Canada's OSH auditor certification process, programs aimed at construction and small businesses, OSH education for youth, issues specific to Hispanic workers, and the collection and reporting of injury and illness statistics.

Meeting results will be posted on the TriNational Web page at www.osha.gov/TriNational/index.html.

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