OSHA Revises Voluntary Protection Programs

In the Jan. 9 Federal Register, OSHA published final changes to its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) that, among other enhancements, allow participation by companies with mobile workforces.

The VPP, the agency’s recognition initiative for workplace safety and health excellence, will provide new options for construction contractors and other employers who may have workers at various locations. Other VPP changes for eligible organizations include a streamlined application process, outreach and mentoring and onsite workplace evaluations.

According to the Federal Register notice, “VPP's original focus was on establishing effective safety and health management systems at individual fixed worksites where the employer had responsibility and authority to control safety and health.” But OSHA’s experience with VPP Demonstration Programs, other cooperative programs and public comments “have demonstrated that the basic principles of site-based safety and health management apply equally well to workforces that move from one work project and location to another and whose employers may not have controlling authority for safety and health.”

Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas M. Stohler pointed out that since 2001, participation in the VPP has increased almost 200 percent. During that same period, workplace fatalities decreased 14 percent.

“OSHA is proud to recognize the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health,” Stohler said. “These program revisions will allow more companies to participate in the VPP, which has contributed to improved workplace safety.”

The VPP was established in 1982 to recognize employers and employees who focus on the prevention of injuries, illnesses and fatalities through the implementation of effective safety and health management systems. Currently, there are 2,161 federal and state plan VPP participants.

Changes to the VPP are effective May 9, 2009.

“Once the following revisions become effective, OSHA will move current participants in its VPP Mobile Workforce Demonstration for Construction and its VPP Corporate Pilot into the appropriate VPP program (Star or Merit) and way to participate (site-based, mobile workforce, or corporate),” the notice read.

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