The GAO report, “OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs: Improved Oversight and Controls Would Better Ensure Program Quality,” was publicly released June 18. GAO’s analysis recommended that OSHA strengthen the program’s oversight activity, documentation and other aspects of program operations and impact to ensure consistency and adherence to existing OSHA policies and procedures. VPP participation encompasses more than 2,200 worksites covering more than 800,000 workers.
“OSHA’s internal controls are not sufficient to ensure that only qualified worksites participate in the VPP,” the report stated. “The lack of a policy requiring documentation in VPP files regarding follow-up actions taken in response to incidents, such as fatalities and serious injuries, at VPP sites limits the national office’s ability to ensure that its regions have taken the required actions.”
OSHA also has announced that it will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of its VPP and Alliance Program to determine how the agency should best allocate its resources among cooperative programs, enforcement and the agency’s other activities.
Barab: OSHA to “Thoroughly” Review VPP
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab said he agrees with recommendations made in the GAO report.
“We will thoroughly review the VPP and Alliance Program to determine their effectiveness as well as review the programs’ roles in helping the agency promote the safety and health of America’s workers,” he said.
Barab noted that OSHA had not adequately addressed the findings of the GAO’s 2004 report, “OSHA’s Voluntary Compliance Strategies Show Promising Results, But Should Be Fully Evaluated Before They Are Expanded.”
“The report noted that OSHA had not fully evaluated the effectiveness of its cooperative programs and was therefore ‘limited in its ability to make a sound decision about how best to allocate its resources,’” said Barab. “Our evaluation of these programs in the context of OSHA’s limited resources will help ensure that OSHA will be able to reprioritize these resources in the most effective manner.”
To address the most recent GAO report’s findings and recommendations about the VPP, OSHA will review and address problems, including:
- Program management and oversight policies and procedures;
- Documentation policy for actions taken in response to fatalities and serious injuries at VPP sites; and
- Goals and performance measures for the VPP and internal OSHA controls that ensure consistent compliance with VPP policies by the agency’s regional offices.