New Law Would Make OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs Permanent

By Roy Maurer May 29, 2015
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A cooperative voluntary safety program run by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would be made permanent under bipartisan legislation introduced May 21, 2015, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Voluntary Protection Program Act would codify OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), intended to incentivize employers to implement a comprehensive safety and health management system. VPP was created in 1982 and has 2,200 participating worksites covering nearly 1 million workers, but was never authorized in law.

The program recognizes employers that have implemented effective safety and health management systems, and maintain injury and illness rates below national averages for their respective industries. To participate, employers must submit an application to OSHA and undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Program participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

“It is one federal program that works well, fostering cooperation between private businesses and a government regulator,” said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., and a sponsor of the bill. “Instead of heavy-handed government regulation, this program engages the private sector to create safe work environments,” he said in a press release.

Longtime VPP supporter Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, and a co-sponsor of the legislation, called the program one of the few “that has achieved unified support from both union and nonunionized labor, small and large businesses, and government.”

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez recently testified before a congressional committee on the merits of the program and the effort to get more companies involved in it.

“VPP sites are innovators and industry leaders in workplace safety. They create safer, more productive working environments that give American companies a competitive edge in the global marketplace,” said Mike Maddox, chairman of the VPP Participants’ Association representing worksites that are participating in the program or pursuing VPP status. “It is fantastic to have bipartisan recognition of VPP’s success as the Department of Labor’s premier cooperative program. This legislation will ensure that OSHA can continue to support VPP, matching the commitment of VPP companies, workers and unions who already volunteer time, expertise and resources toward making workplaces safer across the country.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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