Occupational Safety and Health and Child Labor Policies of the United States and Mexico

T-HRD-91-22: Published: Apr 30, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1991.

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GAO discussed: (1) occupational safety and health and child labor laws in the United States and Mexico; and (2) the enforcement of those laws. GAO noted that: (1) in the United States, child labor and safety and health laws and regulations varied by state, while Mexican laws and regulations were uniform throughout the country; (2) Mexican child labor restrictions prohibited children under age 14 from working and required work permits for children under age 16, while the United States permitted limited employment as early as age 10 and did not require work permits; (3) Mexico placed more responsibility on workers regarding work-place safety and health than did the United States; (4) Mexico's enforcement strategies emphasized negotiating work-place solutions to identified problems, while the United States emphasized detecting violations and applying sanctions; (5) inspections in Mexico provided less intense scrutiny of employer compliance than did U.S. specialized inspection procedures, but infrequent inspections and limited criminal sanctions hindered U.S. attempts to deter violations through inspections; (6) U.S. safety and health standards included textile industry-specific safety and health standards addressing exposure to cotton dust, while Mexico lacked comparable protections; and (7) U.S. and Mexican enforcement strategies and responsibilities in the textile and apparel industry were similar, except the United States targeted more efforts specifically to child labor problems.

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