At the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants'' Association (VPPPA) annual conference in New Orleans yesterday, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao opened this year''s conference by addressing more than 2,000 safety professionals.
"When government and industry work together to implement and promote state-of-the art safety and health programs, everyone benefits," said Chao.
Chao said that the Department of Labor (DOL) will be working to improve VPP by ensuring its long-term presence within OSHA, as well as increasing its membership.
To this end, Chao announced two major initiatives by DOL to improve workers'' safety and health.
First, she announced the department''s official support for H.R. 2235, the legislation that would codify VPP under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Second, Chao said OSHA and VPPPA are forming a new initiative that will significantly increase the joint outreach to small businesses through VPPPA''s mentoring program.
The goal of OSHA and the association''s member companies is to work together to double the number of small businesses in the association over the next three years.
"From large multinational companies to single site, family-run businesses, VPP can benefit all eligible employers -- including small business owners," said Chao. "OSHA will help find the candidates and the association''s member companies will mentor the candidates by modeling excellence, answering questions and helping with the applications."
Chao went on to say that the government cannot solve every problem by itself and proactive compliance assistance from OSHA is the right thing for business and workers in the 21st century.
"We must work with employers and employees -- organized and unorganized -- to create a workplace culture that says safety is No. 1," Chao told attendees. "We must anticipate problems before they happen, not just reacting to them after the fact."
by Virginia Foran