Industrial Health and Safety Regulations in Mexico: Part One

July 31, 2020

Companies that are committed to excellent employee health and safety are among the most successful when it comes to manufacturing in Mexico. In part one of our overview of industrial health and safety regulations in Mexico, we cover the basics of manufacturing hazards, responsibilities of the employer and employee, and how compliance with health and safety standards is verified.

In manufacturing, there is always the possibility of an accident occurring, or someone's health being affected adversely by workplace activities. Safeguards against preventable mishaps and illnesses in the workplace benefit everyone, from the business owner to the entry-level personnel. Before understanding the legal backbone of Mexico’s labor system (as discussed in part two), it is important to understand the basics of maintaining a safe workplace in Mexico. Paying attention to health and safety in the workplace is not just about being publicly responsible – it also makes good business sense.

Understanding Health and Safety When Manufacturing in Mexico

Which laws govern health and safety issues in Mexico?

Laws relating to labor health and safety in Mexico, including requirements for workers' compensation and health and safety in the workplace, are governed by two significant pieces of legislation: Mexico's Federal Labor Law and Mexico's Social Security Law.

  • Mexico's Federal Labor Law stipulates employment relationships, conditions, and employee rights in the country. These laws rigorously implement a safe work environment and pristine working conditions, enforce employee rights, and seek to provide a platform for sustainable living.
  • Mexico's Social Security Law provides clear rights for employees to guarantee health, and the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) is the federal organization that creates policies on health and safety in the workplace.

Each state is responsible for implementing these laws within its jurisdiction.

Which health and safety issues are addressed and outlined in the laws?

Many details are incorporated into the essential sections of the labor law that help set workforce standards and provide a platform for greater efficiency and acquired skills. Contracts, relationships, and social security enable a safe work environment and excellent working conditions for the Mexican employee.

Employer Obligations for Health and Safety in Mexico

What health and safety concerns should employers consider?

The Mexican Constitution establishes a general obligation to promote employee health and safety and advances specific duties that arise from numerous laws. It creates a universal employer responsibility to make amends for work-related death and disability. These laws also push employers to abide by standards that:

  • Maintain safety and health programs
  • Maintain acquiescence and compliance-verification systems
  • Ensure accurate equipment and perilous substance controls
  • Assist venture of joint committees
  • Provide worker training and information about risks
  • Allow labor inspections
  • Provide information and reports to authorities
  • Protect pregnant and lactating women

One of the most critical concerns arising from these general obligations is being aware of and minimizing potentially hazardous conditions, especially in manufacturing environments.

What workplace hazards should manufacturers in Mexico be aware of?

By minimizing workplace risk in the workplace, a manufacturing organization in Mexico can function efficiently and lucratively, while uplifting worker performance and drive. An effective safety and health program can potentially save USD $4 to $6 for every $1 invested. Accidents and injuries are more expensive than many realize, and costs mount up quickly. Reducing costs in this area frees up resources that can be used in other areas.

A manufacturing environment can expose people to a multiplicity of dangers, including:

  • heavy loads that have to be physically handled
  • manufacturing equipment that has to be operated on
  • chemicals that must be used in production processes
  • electrical energy that flows through machinery
  • mental vulnerabilities related to workplace stress

Implementing the correct rules and guidelines for working in a potentially dangerous manufacturing environment is essential to building fundamental principles for employee safety. A company should also be conscious of lawful requirements and responsibilities related to health and safety issues in a Mexican manufacturing workplace. 

What safety-related language requirements are there for foreign companies operating in Mexico?

Language requirements are often overlooked when companies begin to think about health and safety issues when manufacturing in Mexico. Under Mexican law, it is required that workers be given training in Spanish, with materials in Spanish, such as labels that come on the containers of the chemicals they are using. Failure to abide by these regulations may result in fines ranging from 15 to 315 times the minimum wage, which may be doubled for repeat offenders. The Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) may also order a partial or total temporary shutdown of a workplace until health and safety records are met.

Mitigating Risk and Managing Workplace Safety Issues

The Importance of Health and Safety Handbooks

Risks for health and safety can be significantly reduced if a company has a health and safety manual. It must contain the health and safety policy, responsibility, and overall information of your business. To test the effectiveness of your company's safety handbook policy, consider:

  • Do you have a health and safety handbook?
  • Is your business compliant with the latest Mexican rules, regulations, and legislation? Ensure that the specifics are laid out in the handbook.
  • Is the health and safety handbook part of your contract of employment?
  • Are staff fully trained in health and safety compliance?

Industrial Health and Safety Inspections in Mexico

Workplace health and safety are presided over by a system of inspections and penalties in Mexico. Inspectors monitor compliance, set appeasement deadlines, order plant closings, maintain reports, and counsel and supervise joint committees.  

Manufacturing workplaces in Mexico are subject to initial inspections that occur: when a workplace is opened, extended, or changed, annually (or more or less regularly), and upon verifying compliance with previous appeasement orders.

Workplaces are also subject to additional special inspections, which can be ordered if authorities know about infringements, accidents, calamity, or looming dangers.

At the beginning of any inspection, the inspector must present the employer with a written inspection order and a phone number to validate it, along with a declaration of employer rights and obligations. Representatives of both employer and employees should be present.

Private, third-party organizations called verification units monitor compliance as an appendage to official inspections. Employers and STPS can hire verification units to check and report on agreement with enforcement authorities. They must abide by requirements relevant to government inspectors. It is anticipated that the private verification program will improve conformity by adding private inspection resources to the effort. Private verification does not displace regulatory inspection and enforcement authority.

Penalties for Industrial Health and Safety Violations in Mexico

The Office of Labor Inspection, part of the STPS, is responsible for enforcement of safety and health regulations in federally regulated industries. Employers who infringe upon safety regulations, including declining inspector access to their facilities, are subject to fines of up to 20,000 times the general minimum wage for that region. If violations continue, the inspectors can order a shutdown of the workplace.

Penalty recommendations are forwarded from inspection authorities to a special STPS government department. Employers have a right to respond to charges, including the declaration of defenses, requesting exceptions, submitting substantiations, and the right to legal representation.

In Mexico, first-violation penalties are seldom imposed. Penalties typically only occur for looming dangers or failure to correct previously highlighted issues.

Employee Duties for Health and Safety in Mexico

Employers are not the sole party responsible for ensuring that Mexico safety standards are met. Workplace safety regulations and rules also require employees to commit to obey safety and health standards, including:

  • aiding imperiled co-workers
  • cooperating with joint committees
  • partaking in safety training
  • using required protective equipment
  • taking medical exams
  • notifying employers of contagious diseases contracted
  • reporting safety breaches to the employer 

As a result, employees have various rights relating to safety and health concerns in the workplace, including notification of workplace safety and health updates, attendance at and free speech during inspections, acquisition of inspection results, and contribution to legal proceedings.

We can help your company understand and address health and safety concerns

Though understanding your company's health and safety obligations is extremely important, it can also be extremely complicated. Given the nuances of Mexico's Federal Labor Law, it is essential to understand the rights of employers, employees, and other parties when undertaking a manufacturing operation in Mexico. There are many ways to explore health and safety regulations in Mexico:

  1. Contact Tetakawi expert to get your questions answered directly. At Tetakawi, we can provide support to walk you through the significant aspects of the Labor Law and ensure compliance with mandated health and safety regulations.
  2. Read part two of our post on industrial health and safety regulations in Mexico to gain a deeper understanding of Mexico’s Federal Labor Laws and how they are enforced. 
  3. Explore the scope of our EHS support services and learn how Tetakawi's Shelter Program can handle EH&S so that you can focus on manufacturing. 
     
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