Ever wish there was a way you could avoid OSHA’s programmed inspections? Well, it’s a very real possibility, through OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).
It’s no secret that violating safety standards attracts fines, penalties, and disciplinary measures. Similarly, upholding safety standards also comes with its perks: a safe worksite, healthy workers, smooth operations, higher profit, and more.
When you run a safe and compliant jobsite, everyone is happy- including government safety agencies.
To encourage employers and workers to focus on safety, a program was created, named the Voluntary Protection Programs. The Voluntary Protection Programs recognize safety flag-bearers who have been exemplary in maintaining health and safety standards.
These could be either employers or employees, in both the private industry or federal agencies, who have successfully implemented effective safety and health management systems, and maintained minimal injury and illness rates.
Through the VPP, OSHA seeks to avoid overlooking safety excellence, and reward, rather than punish. In fact, VPP participants are excluded from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.
Now, OSHA seeks input from the public to update the program and continue recognizing safe environments.
So, what’s it all about? What does it take to take part in Voluntary Protection Programs? And, how can you make your voice heard?
Let’s break it all down.
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Brief history of Voluntary Protection Programs
In 1979, California began an experimental safety program, paving the way for VPP.
Then, in 1982, OSHA formally announced the VPP, approving the first site. Finally, in 1998, federal worksites received eligibility for Voluntary Protection Programs in Section (2)(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Over the decades, the program has grown from 30 participants to an established community of over 2,200 member sites. And, participants in the programs average 52% fewer Days Away Restricted or Transferred as compared to others in their industry.
For employers, that translates to greater profits, from lower worker’s compensation premiums, fewer safety incident costs, and improved worker health and attendance.
In Voluntary Protection Programs, management, labor, and OSHA work in sync to proactively prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.
They accomplish this by focusing on:
- hazard prevention and control;
- worksite analysis;
- management commitment and worker involvement.
So, how can your company become a part of OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs? Let’s take a look.
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How to participate in VPP
VPP sets performance-oriented criteria for various aspects occupational health and safety: management commitment, employee involvement, hazard recognition & mitigation, and employee training.
To participate in the program, employers must submit an application to OSHA and undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Additionally, union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit.
However, once accepted into the program, VPP participants are excluded from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.
Once approved, OSHA qualifies sites to one of three programs:
- Star Demonstration, which provides recognition for worksites that address unique safety and health issues.
Sites that make the grade must submit annual self-evaluations and undergo periodic onsite re-evaluations to remain in the programs. Star Demonstration sites are evaluated every 12 to 18 months, Merit sites every 18 to 24 months, and Star sites every three to five years.
Make your voice heard
Although Voluntary Protection Programs remain a great way to recognize safe workplaces, they need input from the public to improve and grow. As such, OSHA is opening the program to public comments and requesting input from all perspectives.
Now, you can lend your voice to help modernize and enhance the VPP, as it continues to promote workplace safety and health management systems.
The Voluntary Protection Program’s modernization project is seeking stakeholder input on issues such as:
- Aligning the program more closely with up-to-date occupational safety and health management practices and system standards.
- Improving how the program can contribute to expanding the use and effectiveness of safety and health management systems.
- Determining whether and how resources and tools such as “special government employees,” consensus standards, third-party auditors and other methods could serve to expand the program’s capacity without compromising effectiveness and oversight.
- Determining whether particular categories of hazards need special attention in the VPP certification process.
OSHA is asking a series of questions in 10 sections to elicit useful responses to support the project’s aims. You can submit comments and attachments, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2022-0012, using the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. The due date for comments submission is April 14, 2023.
Maintaining worksite safety is everyone’s business – and your opinion counts!
About Worksite Medical
In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.
Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.
We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.