VPP Legislation Receives Bipartisan Support

Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House yesterday that would amend the OSH Act by codifying the Voluntary Protection Programs.

Reps. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., and Robert Andrews, D-N.J., yesterday introduced the Models of Safety and Health Excellence Act of 2001.

If enacted, this bill would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 by codifying the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).

Since the programs'' inception in 1982, the VPP has consistently gained praise from both Democrats and Republicans.

"We''re very pleased to see bipartisan support for this legislation," said Lee Anne Jillings, executive director of the Voluntary Protection Participants'' Association (VPPPA). "Codification of the VPP is important to ensure the continued success of these partnership programs in improving worker safety and health."

The VPP establishes the credibility of cooperative action among government, industry and labor to address worker safety and health issues and expand employee protection.

The purpose of the VPP is to recognize, emphasize and encourage excellence in occupational safety and health programs.

These programs are cooperative, requiring active employee and managerial involvement.

Companies that qualify for the VPP view OSHA standards as establishing a minimum level of safety and health performance, and set their own more stringent requirements to achieve effective employee protection.

"The Voluntary Protection Programs provides a model for the type of cooperative partnership we hope to see between companies and OSHA, moving away from the adversarial relationships of the past. Companies participating in this program have proven exemplary safety records, and it is time that we recognize that fact by codifying VPP," said Petri. "In the last Congress we made a great deal of progress educating members of Congress about the program and its importance. Now we are poised to move this bill through Congress with the help of our bipartisan cosponsors."

Participation in the VPP has grown from three worksites in 1983 to nearly 750 as of June 2001.

Worksites in the VPP boast injury and illness rates that average 52 percent below their industry norms; cost-saving benefits from lower workers'' compensation rates; increased morale and feeling of ownership among employees; improved relationships between labor and management; and serve as outstanding models of private sector/government cooperation.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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