OSHA Proposes Revision to VPP Benchmarks

OSHA wants to revise its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) by changing the benchmark injury and illness rates used to determine whether VPP applicants and participants meet the rate requirements for the VPP Star Program.

This change would also apply to the requirements for construction applicants' qualification for the Merit Program.

One way OSHA determines the qualification of applicants and the continuing qualification of participants in the VPP Star Program, the most challenging participation category, is to compare their injury and illness rates to industry rates benchmarks published annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For Star eligibility, rates must be below the benchmark BLS rates.

Currently, the benchmarks are two rates from the most recent year's BLS industry averages for nonfatal injuries and illnesses. The OSHA proposal would change those benchmarks to require that to qualify for the Star Program, applicants' and participants' rates must be below the two BLS industry rates for at least one of the three most recent years published. This change would also allow construction sites that do not meet Star rate requirements to be considered for the Merit Program if company-wide three-year rates are below the proposed benchmark rates.

OSHA has been concerned for some time about the effect on some VPP applicants and participants of substantial fluctuations from year to year in a limited number of BLS industry rates. In some industries, it is not unusual to have annual rate fluctuations of 20 to 30 percent and more. It is not clear why some national rates fluctuate to this degree. The effect of these rate fluctuations is to create an unpredictable moving target that, in any particular year, may not fairly represent the injury and illness situation in an industry.

This proposed revision to the VPP is intended to lessen the effect of the BLS rate fluctuations by allowing the agency to use one out of the three most recent years of published BLS rates as its benchmark for Star qualification.

The agency is seeking comments from the public about the proposed change. Comments on the proposed changes must be submitted by Aug. 25. They can be submitted online to OSHA's docket office at ecomments.osha.gov, or paper copies of comments and all attachments may be submitted in triplicate to OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. C-06, Room N-2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210.

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