OSHA Launches Two Voluntary Pilot Programs

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw took another step toward fulfilling his goal of expanding the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), as the agency held a ceremony in Washington, DC to announce the start of two pilot programs aimed at increasing the number of participating worksites: "OSHA Challenge" and "VPP Corporate."

The corporate program is designed to eliminate barriers faced by larger corporations that want to implement VPP at worksites throughout the company. For example, OSHA says it will "streamline" the application and onsite evaluation process that currently pose obstacles for many organizations that wish to join VPP.

OSHA Challenge is intended to encourage companies to take the first step toward eventual full participation in VPP, and provides a roadmap to help them reach this goal. It is open to both private and public sector organizations and has two tracks: one for general industry and another for construction.

"One step at a time is the best way to change culture," asserted Henshaw. Using voluntary methods to change corporate culture to focus on workplace safety has been a major goal of Henshaw's leadership at OSHA.

Henshaw also promised that OSHA itself would soon have worksites in the VPP program. "It's time for government to, 'put your money where your mouth is,'" he explained.

The OSHA chief addressed the concern that the emphasis on rapid expansion of VPP could diminish the program's quality. "We're not going to water down the standards of VPP Star and Merit," he vowed. Originally, the OSHA Challenge program was entitled "VPP Challenge."

In a session with reporters after the ceremony, Henshaw explained that the agency wants to start with a relatively small number of companies as OSHA continues to fine-tune the pilot programs. A total of 16 organizations agreed to participate in the programs.

"The whole purpose behind a pilot is to test some premises," he said. "We want to keep it somewhat contained so we can test it, and then if we change it we only impact a few."

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