Henshaw Meets with International Counterparts to Discuss Workplace Safety

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Health and Safety John Henshaw met recently with the other leaders of the Trinational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group, Dr. Alberto Aguilar Salinas, Mexican director general for workplace safety and health, and Gerry Blanchard, Canadian director general for operations.

The three workplace safety officials met in Mexico City to review the results of the Occupational Safety and Health Working Group's activities over the past year and to consider proposals for future activities.

"The Trinational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group is an important vehicle for collaboration among our three countries to improve workplace safety and health in North America," said Henshaw. "The work that this group has done and is about to do will provide tremendous benefit to workers in our respective countries."

The working group leaders acknowledged the accomplishments of the four subgroups Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems and Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), Handling of Hazardous Substances, Inspector and Technical Assistance Staff Training, and Trinational Web Page. The leaders also agreed to possible future cooperative activities, including: a best-practice workshop on ergonomics in the automotive sector; recognition of companies with effective safety and health management systems; consideration of a globally harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals; and training Mexican inspectors and technical assistance staff on machine guarding and pressure vessels and boilers.

In addition to the working group meetings, a one-day workshop on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) was held with approximately 30 representatives from the three countries, including various Mexican ministries. Presentations included an overview of chemical hazard communication in Mexico, a presentation on the GHS system, and discussion of GHS implementation issues in the three countries.

The three leaders also shared experiences and best practices in each country's construction industry. Representatives from government, industry and labor exchanged information on training methods, procedures, and management systems that have been effective in reducing work-related accidents and illnesses in the industry.

Recent cooperative activities of the working group include training of nearly 100 Mexican inspectors from 32 states on fire protection and life safety and electrical power generation and a tripartite workshop on best practices in the manufacturing industry with a focus on the automotive sector. A Trinational Web site will soon be launched to provide more information about past and future cooperative activities of the working group.

A meeting on the rights of migrant workers in the United States also took place during the week. The meeting allowed members from the United States, Canada and Mexico to exchange information and improve collaboration on efforts to protect migrant workers. It is part of an ongoing exchange among the U.S. Department of Labor, Mexico's Foreign Ministry, and the Mexican embassy and consulates in the United States to establish local partnerships around the United States where there are large numbers of Mexican workers.

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