Region VI Recognizes VPP 'Super-stars'

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw announced last year that he wants a tenfold increase in the number of Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) facilities. Aside from the obvious practical difficulties of achieving such a dramatic rise in the numbers, the proposal raises concerns about not letting ambitious quantitative goals dilute the program's quality.

The participants in OSHA Region VI's VPP may have come up with a partial solution to this dilemma: "Star Among Stars." William Klingbeil, the agency's VPP manager for the region in the southwest United States, explains the origin of the program.

"We wanted to find a way to encourage continuous improvement among our VPP sites, but realized we didn't have the resources to audit them as often as we'd like," he says. The Star Among Stars program recognizes sites that have exceeded the performance needed to qualify for VPP's highest, or "star," category.

The program uses the same two rates used by VPP: the total case incident rate and the days away from work and restricted activity rate. To qualify for VPP, companies must have an injury and illness rate below the national average for their industry. Because OSHA uses a three-year average rate to qualify and re-qualify for VPP, Klingbeil suspects some sites may get a little complacent, figuring they can make up for a single bad year later.

"We wanted to hold their feet to the fire, so we made "Star Among Stars" a program based on a one-year rate, and require companies to re-qualify every year," says Klingbeil.

The program has three levels: a facility with a single year injury incident rate at least 50 percent below its industry average is a "star among stars;" a site that is 75 percent below the national average is a "super-stars among stars;" and the most exalted level, "stars of excellence," are those facilities that are 90 percent below the national average.

Every year there is a ceremony at the Region VI conference. At this ceremony, held in early March, out of a total 217 VPP sites in the region, 129 qualified for one of the three Star Among Stars categories, and 46 sites made it to the highest, star of excellence, level.

One difference between the Star Among Stars program and VPP is that qualifying companies are awarded plaques, but receive no special benefits. As a result, Klingbeil is not worried about under-reporting of injuries.

The program's success is attracting the interest of other OSHA regions. Klingbeil says Region I will begin its own Star Among Stars this year.

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