For a company to be successful over the long term in its Mexican manufacturing efforts, the implementation and continuance of maquiladora occupational safety and health programs are a must.

Foreign plants manufacturing product for export, first began establishing themselves along the expansive length of the US-Mexico border zone in the mid-1960s. Over the years, as Mexico’s infrastructure has made significant strides forward in its nationwide availability and quality, and, as the country’s educational system has developed an increasing capacity to foster the development of a capable and productive workforce, industry has continued to locate not only on the border, but also in diverse areas within the expanse of Mexico’s national boundaries.

As has often been the case during the process experienced by developing nations, the focus on addressing the environmental challenges that industry inevitably brings with it was, and continues to be, a strong one. Because, however, of the progress that Mexico made over the years in resolving such issues through its Environmental and Natural Resources Secretariat, commonly referred to by its Spanish language acronym SEMARNAT, resources have been increasingly allocated to also make a concerted effort to encourage manufacturers in Mexico to develop and strengthen effective maquiladora occupational safety and health programs.

In the last decade, an effort to engage firms that are producing product for export from Mexico has been implemented by Mexico’s Secretaria de Trabajo y Prevision Social (STPS), which is the nation’s equivalent of the US Department of Labor. In October of 2009, the STPS rolled out the guidelines for its “Programa de Autogestion en Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo.” A rough translation of this phrase into English would read “Self-Managed Health and Safety Program for the Workplace.” The literature created for the Programa de Autogestion en Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo by the STPS includes information on how to train company human resources to set up auditable Mexican maquiladora occupational safety and health programs in production facilities, as well as how to develop and how to objectively evaluate the functioning programs that have been established. Companies that follow the guidelines, and pass an audit conducted under the supervision of the Secretaria de Trabajo y Prevision Social, can earn the STPS bestowed “Acreditacion de Sistemas de Administracion y Seguridad en el Trabajo,” or, in English, “Accreditation of Administrative Systems of Safety in the Work Place.”

Elements of the audit conducted under the STPS guidelines include:

  • An assessment of the overall functioning of the audited company’s system to manage and administer workplace health and safety programs;
  • A commitment to compliance with laws, rules, regulations and Mexican NOMs that have been established to govern workplace health and safety issues;
  • A review of numbers and types of accidents and injuries in the workplace;
    The number of work hours and days lost due to deficiencies in and failures of the workplace health and safety system.

Although the equivalent of the country’s Department of Labor has established a process and the materials, as well as has made expert assistance available to promote the design and implementation of Mexican maquiladora occupational safety and health programs, no such effort will be successful on the firm level without the following:

  • A recognition of the importance of this issue to the present and continuing success of the business and its employees, as well as a sincere commitment to provide adequate resources to carry out necessary related tasks and activities;
  • An exhaustive effort by management and voluntarily trained and participating employees to analyze all aspects of workplace activities, and their function, in order to identify existing and potential hazards;
  • A commitment to provide the resources and expertise to implement actions that are necessary to removing identified hazards from the workplace;
  • An agreement to make ongoing efforts to conduct inspections and audits to maintain a status quo that is in compliance with Mexico’s health and safety laws, rules, regulations and NOMS.

To ensure that Mexican maquiladora occupational health and safety programs continue to enable both businesses and employees to prosper over the long-term, companies must develop workplace cultures in which are engrained the capabilities to:

  • Prevent industrial mishaps;
  • Consistently report accidents and industrial health and safety non-conformities;
  • Capably investigate accidents using root cause analysis methodologies;
  • Use root cause analysis discoveries to prevent future industrial mishaps;
  • Conduct safety and health training on a regular basis;
  • Deliver on-site first aid when needed.