Pulse Point Newsletter for March 21, 2001
Published by Alliance Consulting International
Partners in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety

By Enrique Medina, MS, CIH

This issue presents the third overview of recently released proposed Official Mexican Standards (NOMs in Spanish) issued by Mexico's Ministry of Labor and Social Security (STPS). These standards are currently undergoing revisions prior to publication as final rules.

This month we feature Proposed Official Mexican Standard PROY-NOM-031-STPS-2000, Activities related to utilization of timber yielding forest resources and sawmills- Safety and health conditions. It was published on January 12, 2001 in the Official Journal of the Federation.

This proposed standard is intended to establish the minimum safety conditions to protect forestry and sawmill workers from a variety of natural and occupational hazards. Natural hazards are defined as difficult terrain, insects, animals, weather conditions, and extreme temperatures. Work-related hazards involve falls, concussions, injuries from equipment and machinery, noise, and exposure to particulates. Sawmills also present exposures to noise, machinery and equipment, combustion sources, and material handling hazards. The NOM covers activities related to lumber production, such as logging and transportation to sawmills, as well as the processes related to preparation of commercial products, including debarking, measuring, sawing, sanding and kiln-drying operations.

A key provision of the proposed standard is the employer's responsibility to conduct a hazard assessment of logging and sawmill operations, which will serve as a basis for establishing a written health and safety program for protection of workers and the work place. As part of its obligations, the employer must:

The hazard assessment must be conducted at least annually or whenever work conditions change the potential risks of the operation. The assessment must describe the processes involved in the operation, identify potential health and safety hazards and their responsible agents, and describe the exposure period and hazard characteristics. A hazard classification must be assigned based on experience with the process. The assessment must also describe the specific safety measures adopted to eliminate or control hazards.

The proposed standard provides specific health and safety procedures that must be followed for a number of logging and sawmill operations. These include clearing, logging, log transportation, stacking, sawmill conditions, storage and handling of flammable materials, use of machinery (debarker, circular and band saws), loading and unloading of logs, warehousing, fire protection, personal protection equipment, maintenance areas, and first aid.

Each logging crew must have a communication device, a map of the logging area showing the route and location to the nearest meeting point and shelter, and a first aid kit. There must be two shovels and one fire extinguisher for every three logging workers. All crew members must be trained in use of the extinguisher and first aid kit. Due to the possibility of inclement weather and associated hazards, workers must be provided with a shelter in case of rain, snow or electrical storms.

For log hauling and stacking operations, the standard places limits on the maximum weight allowed for manual lifting, based on age and gender. Men under 18 years of age may not handle loads over 35 kilograms (kg), while those over 18 can handle up to 50 kg, equivalent to 110 lbs. Women are limited to 20-kg loads and pregnant or post-partum women are prohibited from engaging in manual lifting.

Sawmill operations must abide by machine guarding, lockout-tagout and hearing protection standards similar to general industry. Storage of flammables and other hazardous materials must have secondary containment to prevent spills. The proposed standard also covers safety requirements in production, maintenance and storage areas, such as fire protection, means of egress, walking and working surfaces, and lighting, among others.

As in all new STPS standards, the proposed NOM provides employers the option to contract with an accredited Verification Unit to verify or evaluate compliance with the standard. Verification Unit assessments will be valid for a two-year period. The proposed standard is subject to a 60-day comment period from the date of publication. Following the normal rule-making process, a revised proposed standard will be published after the comments received have been reviewed. The proposed NOM is slated to become a final standard 120-day period following its publication in the Official Journal of the Federation.

If you have questions about how the new environmental impact regulations may affect your current or future projects, please contact us at (619) 297-1469 or send us an email at emedina@pulse-point.com.


Alliance Consulting International
Partners in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety
3361 28th St.
San Diego, California 92104
(fax (619)297-1023

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Pulse Point is written for the benefit of our readers with the sole intent to provide general information. The articles are not intended as specific opinions or as a substitute for professional advice in individual cases.