The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), adopted by OSHA on July 2, 1982, have established the credibility of cooperative action among government, industry and labor to address worker safety and health issues and expand worker protection. OSHA has long recognized that compliance with occupational safety and health standards alone cannot accomplish all the goals of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. Furthermore, limited resources will never permit exhaustive inspections of all the nation's workplaces. No amount of standard setting and enforcement can replace the understanding of work processes, materials and hazards derived from employers' and employees' day-to-day, on-the-job experience.
This knowledge, combined with the ability to evaluate and address hazards rapidly, places employers in a unique position to improve workplace safety and health. VPP participation is based on the implementation of comprehensive management systems with active employee involvement, to prevent and control the potential safety and health hazards at an individual worksite. Facilities that qualify for VPP participation view OSHA standards as a minimum level of safety and health performance and set more stringent standards (where necessary) for effective employee protection. Today, VPP participation spans a diverse range of industries, from petrochemical operations to healthcare facilities. As of January 31, 2002, 805 worksites were participating in the VPP nationwide.1
VPP emerged from a 1979 experiment at the San Onofre power plant construction site, led by California OSHA, the California Building Trades and the National Constructors Association. In this experiment, a labor-management committee took over most of the Cal/OSHA safety responsibilities and focused on building cooperative approaches to resolving safety issues.
During the same period, federal OSHA was also seeking ways to encourage worksites to go beyond compliance in safety and health. In 1980, the Agency evaluated the California experiment and decided that the site's cooperative safety program was the key to exceptional performance in occupational safety and health. In 1982, federal OSHA announced the implementation of the Voluntary Protection Programs.
On July 24, 2000, OSHA published the first major "Revisions to the Voluntary Protection Programs" in the Federal Register, covering issues such as program eligibility and reporting injury/illness rates. These changes aligned VPP more closely with OSHA's Voluntary Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, published in January 1989, thus achieving greater consistency in OSHA's overall approach to safety and health program management. The majority of the VPP revisions became effective on January 1, 2001.
The purpose of the VPP is to recognize and promote effective safety and health management. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish a cooperative relationship at a workplace that has implemented a strong safety and health program. These programs are comprised of management systems for preventing or controlling occupational hazards that not only ensure that OSHA's standards are met, but, using flexibility and creativity, go beyond the mandatory requirements to provide the best feasible protections for workers at that site.