Reps. Tom Petri, R-Wis., and Gene Green, D-Texas, recently introduced H.R. 632, the Voluntary Protection Program Act, into the House to codify OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPP is a voluntary workplace safety program that stems back more than 3 decades but was never authorized in law.
VPP currently includes more than 2,500 worksites and roughly one million employees nationwide. A 2007 report noted that federal VPP worksites saved the government more than $59 million by avoiding injuries, and that private sector VPP participants saved more than $300 million. Employers who are approved for VPP status must commit to continuously improving the safety and health of their worksites while being reevaluated and monitored by OSHA to ensure continued compliance with program requirements.
Petri, a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and one of the bill’s sponsors, called VPP “a great example of successful cooperation between private businesses and a government regulator.”
“Interactions between OSHA and businesses can often be adversarial – this program takes a different approach. I understand there are times when a heavy hand is needed, but most employers want a safe work environment. VPP represents a balanced and sensible approach to achieving this goal with reasonable oversight,” Petri said.
"The Voluntary Protection Program is one of the few programs that has achieved unified support from both union and non-unionized labor, small and large businesses, and government," added Green. "I am proud to work with my friend to codify this important safety program that saves money while protecting workers."
AIHA Voices Its Support of H.R. 632
In a March 7 letter to Petri, American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) President Allan K. Fleeger, CIH, CSP, expressed support for the legislation.
“AIHA has reviewed H.R. 632 and supports the bill in its entirety,” Fleeger wrote. “Codifying the VPP program will provide assurance that this program continues, is provided adequate funding, and is expanded to assist small business. Enactment also provides direction to OSHA on how best to monitor and evaluate the program to garner the most efficiency from the program.
“VPP under your legislation would continue to be a comprehensive workplace safety and health management system that is built on cooperation among workers, employers and government,” he added.
Fleeger also pointed out that the legislation would expand the program to small businesses, which he called “historically underserved workplaces in terms of health and safety protection and health and safety compliance.”
Finally, in recognition of limited federal resources, Fleeger suggested that OSHA could consider other ways to use qualified, competent EHS professionals to offer employers guidance and technical expertise. He said AIHA encourages OSHA to develop a third-party workplace review program, which could alleviate some of the cost of the VPP.
“Since 1982, the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has created a culture of workplace health and safety in nearly 2,500 workplaces covering approximately one million employees across the United States. Employers, employees and other stakeholders recognize this program as a success that not only should be continued but expanded. Enactment of House Bill 632 is a huge step in the right direction,” Fleeger wrote.