Labor Day capped off a busy week for the Department of Labor, as OSHA shored up its agreements with Canada and Mexico in early September 2016.
The stronger alliance between the U.S. and Canada sees an updated plan to align the countries’ hazardous workplace chemicals classification requirements and labels. Together with Health Canada, OSHA announced that the two North American nations have jointly developed a 2016-2017 Workplace Chemicals Work Plan. The purpose of the work plan is to ensure that requirements for classifying and communicating the hazards of workplace chemicals will be compatible in the U.S. and Canada without reducing worker safety. This new plan came about due to the differing standards of labels and chemicals, with regulators wanting to ensure these variances do not affect worker safety, while respecting the legislative and regulatory requirements of each country.
Referring to the new plan, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said it’s “part of ongoing efforts between OSHA and Health Canada to reduce regulatory barriers between U.S. and Canadian systems responsible for chemical safety and provide concise information to protect workers exposed to hazardous chemicals.”
OSHA aligned its Hazard Communication Standard with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) in March 2012 to provide an agreed-upon approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Then in 2013, OSHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Canada's Department of Health. The goal of the MOU is to devise a system, accepted by both countries, that allows the use of one label and one safety data sheet. It also:
- Provides guidance to support the implementation of the GHS and understanding of varying interpretations of technical issues and requirements in both Canada and the U.S.
- Works to coordinate common positions and participation in international discussions on the GHS
- Maintains alignment on the GHS implementation when revisions are made
- Develops materials to assist stakeholders with implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS) and understanding the requirements in Canada and the U.S.
OSHA Re-ups Relationship with Mexico to Enhance Construction Safety
As well as Canada, OSHA also shored up its alliance with Mexico in a renewed alliance with Mexican Consulates. Officials signed a new two-year agreement between OSHA’s Corpus Christi Area Office and the Mexican Consulates in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas, which will attempt to enhance safety for construction workers in South Texas.
The renewed agreement will provide Spanish-speaking workers with assistance and outreach materials in Spanish. Topics will cover workers' rights, OSHA standards, and construction safety hazards with an emphasis on fall protection and OSHA compliance and hazards such as caught-in or in-between hazards. Consulate personnel will work closely with OSHA's Corpus Christi Area Office to enhance outreach, training, and education.