Henshaw: VPP Could Save Billions in Illness and Injury Costs

If OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) grows as planned and reaches 8,000 participants, the result would be the prevention of nearly 100,000 injuries and illnesses and a savings of billions of dollars, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw told participants at the 20th annual conference of the VPP Participant's Association held in Las Vegas this week. Saying that "VPP companies continue to set the bar for safety and health excellence, not only in this country but around the world," Henshaw noted, "The V...

He used as an example a company called E&E Manufacturing, an automotive stamping plant in Plymouth, Mich. "This company decided not to move its business off-shore," he said, "but instead to focus on achieving VPP Star, which also became the means to improving quality, productivity and business focus. They not only saved the business in Michigan, they are now expanding it and creating more jobs for the community."

He noted that in 2002, the 625 VPP participants under federal jurisdiction had a total case incidence rate for injuries and illnesses that was 53 percent below their respective industry averages. Had they been at their national average, OSHA estimated they would have experienced 10,532 more recordable injuries and illnesses, costing a total of $3 million.

Henshaw spoke of his challege to VPPPA 2 years ago to grow the program from 800 participants to 8,000. (Titleist became the 1,000th VPP site in 2003.) "Now, if we maintain the same performance rate, which we must, the 8,000 VPP participants will result in an estimated 96,000 injuries and illnesses avoided, and $2.7 billion saved," Henshaw said.

Noting that some VPPPA members are concerned that this focus on growth will inevitably mean a watering down of the program, Henshaw insisted, " OSHA is committed to maintaining the quality and integrity of VPP or we can't achieve the 96,000 injuries and illnesses saved."

"Realistically, some companies who apply for VPP won't be able to meet our standards for initial approval, nor our requirement of continuous improvement," he admitted, insisting, "We will turn down applicants if they don't meet the high hurdle of excellence. Even at reapproval time, we will if we have to tell a participant, 'Your safety and health performance and management systems are no longer up to par. We suggest you withdraw.'

"We do this now," said Henshaw, "and we will continue to maintain a high bar of entry."

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