OSHA Revises Voluntary Protection Programs

OSHA announced changes to its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)\r\nthat expand the number of eligible worksites and raise the level of\r\nachievement required for participation.

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OSHA announced changes to its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) that expand the number of eligible worksites and raise the level of achievement required for participation.

The revision of the 18-year-old program also makes VPP criteria conform more closely with OSHA''s voluntary Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines.

Those guidelines, published in 1989, provide effective criteria for managing safety and health programs.

"VPP''s cooperative approach to safety and health excellence, its emphasis on safety and health program management and its success at lowering worksite injury and illness rates will be enhanced with the revised requirements," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "We have improved the substance, language and organization of the requirements to make an already good program even better."

The most notable change in the revision include an expansion of eligibility to types of workplaces previously not covered, increased expectations concerning the management of the safety and health of contractors'' employees working at VPP sites, and a new illness reporting requirement.

The reporting change means OSHA will consider a worksite''s illness experience together with its injury performance when assessing the site''s level of achievement.

The reorganization has resulted in merging VPP''s previous six elements into the four elements of the Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, which are Management Leadership and Employee Involvement, Worksite Analysis, Hazard Prevention and Control and Safety and Health Training.

Some highlights of the changes to VPP include the following.

  • VPP eligibility has been extended to resident contractors at participating VPP sites.
  • To be eligible, a site must not have open investigations or pending or open contested citations under appeal at application.
  • Qualifying smaller worksites may use an alternative method of calculating injury/illness rates to help qualify for the Star program.
  • OSHA will no longer differentiate between managing safety and health at general industry and construction worksites.
  • When corporate audit document are needed to establish a site''s qualification for VPP, OSHA will request (not require) review of such documents that a site voluntarily chooses to provide in support of its application.

The VPP was first adopted by the agency on July 2, 1982, to recognize and promote cooperative action among government, industry and labor in addressing worker safety and health issues, and to expand worker protection.

The program''s three levels include: Star, the most prestigious program for companies with excellent safety and health programs; Demonstration, for companies with excellent safety and health programs that have innovative features OSHA desires to evaluate; and Merit, for companies with good programs attempting to reach Star status.

Revisions regarding approval of Demonstration sites to Star status, and alternative rate calculations for small worksite are effective immediately, said OSHA. All other revisions will become effective Jan. 1, 2001.

The revised requirements appear in the July 24, Federal Register .

For more information on the VPP program, go to www.osha.gov.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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