An overview of Mexican Occupational Health and Safety Laws
In both content and enforcement, Mexico’s family of laws and regulations regarding workplace safety and health is federal, being established by Congress and enforced by federally delineated sectors. Since 1931, the Federal Labor Law (LFT) codifies basic labor law, which includes requirements for worker compensation and workplace safety and health. It is most fully expressed by the administrative body known as Federal Regulation for Occupational Safety and Sanitation and the Environment or STPS, which issues safety standards in cooperation with additional acts and regulations. Many of Mexico’s technical rules regarding Mexican occupational health and safety are put forth as Official Mexican Standards or NOMs. NOMs are issued regarding workplace safety in primarily three classifications: safety standards, health standards, and structural standards.
Employers have a duty to compensate for work-related death and disability, and must protect employees, obey standards, maintain safety programs, maintain compliance systems, ensure proper equipment and hazardous substance controls, facilitate the operation of joint committees, cooperate in studies, provide worker training risk education, post rules, allow labor inspections, provide information and reports to authorities, and protect pregnant and breastfeeding women, under Mexican occupational safety laws.
Among other things, employlees must comply with standards, assist endangered co-workers, cooperate with joint committees, participate in training, exercise care, use required protective equipment, undergo medical exams, inform employers of contagious diseases contracted, and report safety breaches to their employer. They are specifically forbidden from endangering workers, working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and carrying weapons unless required for the job.
Inspections and Verification
Workplaces are subject to three regular types of inspection: Initial inspections, Periodic, and Verification. However, under Mexican health and occupational safety laws, workplaces are also subject to special inspections, which can be ordered at any time for imminent violations.
Some of the key duties of inspectors include specifying abatement deadlines, monitoring abatement and compliance orders, suggesting immediate abatement measures for imminent dangers, ordering substance testing, providing notice of inspections and penalties, etc. Augmenting official inspections are private firms that monitor compliance. These verification units, operating at STPS’s request, inspect and report on compliance to enforcement authorities and must comply with requirements applicable to government inspectors.
As regards Mexican health and occupational laws, inspection officials forward recommendations to a special STPS bureau, which sets penalties and issues summonses specifying charges and explaining how information was analyzed in the process.
Employers have a right to defend their practices and outline their case. Unlike the US, Mexico rarely penalizes first-time offenders in occupational health and safety cases. Penalties are usually only incurred for immediate dangers or failure to abate problems previously highlighted by inspectors or joint committees. Fines are typically computed based primarily on the employers capacity to pay, which is calculated based on the employer profit-share distributions mandated under Mexican law.