An effort by Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., to codify Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) has received a boost from Joseph Dear, former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administrator. Dear declared his support for the move in a letter to the congressman, according to a spokesperson for the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association.
VPP is an OSHA-administered initiative intended to honor worksites that have achieved excellence in worker health and safety. The programs, generally based on a partnership between management and employees, are popular with many members on Capitol Hill because VPP directs OSHA's energies toward a more cooperative, and less confrontational, approach to businesses.
"VPP status creates models of excellence that other firms in an industry can emulate, helps force stronger bonds of trust between employers and workers, and establishes a basis for a genuine partnership between government and industry," Dear stated in his July 6 letter to Petri. The Wisconsin lawmaker has attracted bipartisan support for the bill, known as the Models of Safety and Health Excellence Act of 1999 (H.R. 1459), which he and Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., introduced to Congress on April 14, 1999.
VPP is not a permanent part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Codifying the programs would remedy this and make VPP a regular OSHA budget item so it would be assured of funding every year.
Paul Trampe, a legislative assistant in Petri's office, said the support of Dear is welcome news. Even though no one is opposing the legislation, it has been bottled up in the House Education and Workforce Committee because a number of members want to add different provisions to the bill.
"The hope is that the support from [Dear] and others who are knowledgeable about OSHA will break the logjam on the committee," Trampe said.