OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
National News Release USDL 02-616
October 28, 2002
Contact: Bill Wright
Phone: (202) 693-1999
Meets In San Diego
U.S., Canada, Mexico, partner in fostering cooperation in workplace safety
WASHINGTON -- Occupational safety and health officials from the United States, Canada, and Mexico met Oct. 7 in San Diego for the second session of the Trinational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group.
Formed under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement's labor arm -- the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) -- the group brings together technical experts from the three nations to advance cooperation and programs in key areas of occupational safety and health. The group is headed by each nation's top occupational safety and health official. The three countries issued a joint communiqué (full text attached) on continued technical cooperation on occupational safety and health.
OSHA Administrator John Henshaw said this assembly of safety and health professionals validates the importance being placed on worker safety and health. "The workplace and businesses of our nations are interconnected and interdependent," he said. "This working group is dedicated to producing tangible results, ones that will benefit us all by reducing injures, illnesses and fatalities in all workplaces throughout North America."
The working group established four subgroups to focus on key areas: inspector and technical assistance staff training; handling of hazardous substances; safety and health management systems and voluntary protection programs; and communications and best practices sharing, including the establishment of a trinational website that will link each country's occupational safety and health programs.
Consensus of the group is that training is a key component in improving occupational safety and health throughout the three nations, and discussion focused on a possible long-term goal of establishing an occupational safety and health degree program and development of educational resources centers. The group also recognized the importance of a common system for hazard classification and labeling. It will consider the United Nations-supported Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Effective safety and health management systems are also crucial in reducing work-related injuries and costs; therefore, the group will examine each nation's existing voluntary safety and health management systems and programs.
The Trinational Working Group operates under the guidance of each country's National Administrative Office that administers the NAALC. The group is scheduled to meet again next spring in Canada.
Occupational Safety and Health Working Group
The Working Group ratified terms of reference outlining how the Working Group will operate. Similar terms were agreed to for the four technical subgroups including the involvement of labor and business organizations. While the Working Group will continue as a government-to-government body, each country will decide how to include labor and business organizations on a case-to-case basis. The Working Group will meet semiannually and monitor the performance of the subgroups. After each meeting of the Working Group, a communication will be issued indicating progress and next steps.
The four subgroups are: training of technical assistance staff and inspectors, handling of hazardous substances, safety and health management systems and voluntary protection programs, and the development of a trinational web page.
All three countries recognized training as a key component in improving occupational safety and health across all three nations. As a result, the U.S. committed to provide training and educational materials to Mexico and to establish train-the-trainer courses for use by Mexican technical assistance staff and inspectors. Mexico will translate these materials to offer support for U.S. efforts to better reach its Hispanic workers. In addition, the training subgroup will discuss possible long-term goals regarding an occupational safety and health degree program and the development of educational resource centers to provide for continuing educational courses in Mexico.
On the handling of hazardous substances, all three countries recognized the importance of discussing the issue of systems for hazard classification and labeling. Each country committed to review its internal systems and consider the UN-supported Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labeling of Hazardous Chemicals. Future work may cover information exchanges regarding issues such as best practices for compliance, the dissemination of hazardous substance information to workers and employers and processes for certifying independent laboratories that monitor exposure to hazardous substances.
The three countries also recognized the importance of effective safety and health management systems as a factor in reducing work-related injuries and illnesses and other related costs. As a result, the subgroup will examine the similarities and differences in their existing voluntary safety and health management systems and programs and recognize exemplary programs across all three nations.
Finally, the three countries recognized the need for consistent communications and best practice sharing. Consequently, the three countries committed to utilizing the OSH Working Group website to share information on best practices, to link to their national occupational safety and health programs to their respective communities, and to communicate information on the efforts of the Working Group to the public.
At the working session, the U.S. and Mexican representatives formally welcomed Canada as a full participant in the group. The Working Group agreed to meet again in the spring of 2003 in Canada to review progress and determine next steps. The four subgroups will continue their work and further develop proposals in their respective areas of expertise.
U.S. Labor Department news releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this release will be made available in alternative format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202-693-7773 or TTY 202-693-7755.
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