Workplace occ-health issues go international

Countries agree on excellence criteria

Occupational safety and health officials from the United States, Mexico, and Canada have 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, commenting on the March 10-12 meeting of one of the subgroups of the Tri-National Occupational Safety and Health Working Group, which met in El Paso, TX/Cuidad Juarez, Mexico to discuss best practices, partnerships, voluntary programs, and occupational safety and health management systems. "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."

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 Tri-National 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.

During the technical workshop on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Management Systems and Voluntary Protection Programs, the group discussed 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 Juarez and construction companies in El Paso.

The Occupational Safety and Health Working Group reached consensus on the following key elements of effective occupational safety and health management systems:

  • management commitment and responsibility;
  • employee involvement and responsibility;
  • worksite analysis and approaches;
  • hazard/risk prevention and control;
  • training on criteria for recognizing excellence in workplace safety and health programs.

The subgroup also established criteria for recognizing best practices in excellence in workplace safety and health programs, including:

  • application and evaluation processes;
  • criteria to participate;
  • a recognition strategy.

The subgroup was to meet again during the full working group meeting in April 2003 in Toronto to focus on specific applications of safety and health management systems. Topics that the subgroup is considering 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.

For more information on meeting results, visit the Tri-National web page at www.osha.gov/TriNational/index.html.