OSHA Administrator Outlines New Plan To Grow VPP

Hoping to make good on his vision of a tenfold expansion in the number of Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) sites, Assistant Secretary of Labor John Henshaw explained how he intends to grow the program at the opening general session of the Voluntary Protection Program Participant's Association (VPPPA) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

The OSHA administrator also announced the achievement of a growth-related milestone: the certification of the 1,000th VPP site. But Henshaw has declared he wants the program to grow to include 8,000 sites, and his speech to VPPPA conference attendees this week was largely devoted to outlining a new, three-part initiative the OSHA chief believes will foster growth "without sacrificing VPP's principles of excellence."

  • VPP Challenge targets employers, especially smaller companies, willing to commit to excellence, but who need assistance in developing the safety and health management systems that are an essential part of VPP;
  • VPP Corporate eliminates redundancies in the application requirements for sites from corporations that have made a commitment to VPP;
  • VPP Construction will provide short-term construction projects with the same opportunities for recognition that fixed site employers receive.

In a press briefing for reporters, Henshaw explained that the Challenge program would entail minimal OSHA intervention, as the agency expects trade associations, VPPPA and current VPP members will act as mentors to the new companies. "The idea is to get them into the conversation, to encourage them to become VPP candidates," he said.

Henshaw also told reporters VPP Construction program is not as far along as the other two programs; he expects to launch VPP Construction in 2004.

While many details about the three new initiatives must still be worked out, Henshaw believes VPP could grow to include 4,000 sites within the next two to three years, thanks to the three new program elements as well as VPP's current growth trends. OSHA estimates this would result in covering 2 million workers, which the agency anticipates could lead to 45,000 fewer injuries and savings to companies of $1.25 billion.

Henshaw told conference attendees that "countless" lives could be saved by growing VPP and continually returned to two main points in his speech to them.

"The reason to do this is not the numbers, but the faces, the lives we impact," he asserted.

Second, Henshaw repeatedly sought to reassure his audience that his ambitious growth goals would not undermine the program's quality.

"We will hold true to the rock-solid principles that underlie the VPP program," Henshaw declared. "These will not be diluted you have my word on that."

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