What works when it comes to workplace health and safety? OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) definitely works! Statistical evidence for VPP's success is impressive. Consistently over its 20-year history, the average VPP worksite has had an incidence rate for days away from work, restricted work activity, and/or job transfer that is at least 50 percent below the average for its industry! In addition to reduced injuries and illnesses, VPP sites often realize dramatic reductions in workman's compensation costs.
The VPP, which began in 1982, is designed to recognize and promote effective safety and health management. Voluntary Protection Programs is based on a twofold premise: 1. Effective Safety and Health Program management is essential to worker protection, and 2. A voluntary, cooperative, proactive partnership of management, labor and OSHA can be a valuable complement and alternative to OSHA's traditional enforcement approach.
Successful VPP companies have implemented safety and health programs that far exceed OSHA's minimum standards. They provide comprehensive, systems-based worker protection to address all hazards. Common to VPP sites are managers who assume responsibility for operating an effective program, and employees who participate actively and meaningfully in the safety and health program to ensure high levels of protection. These criteria work for the full range of industries, union and nonunion, and for employers large and small, private and public.
The VPP is a voluntary program where worksites actually ask OSHA to come to their site. There is a cooperative relationship not only among management and employees to address worker safety and health issues, but also with the government. This cooperative relationship is exemplified by OSHA's request for correction of items noted onsite during the evaluation that would have otherwise been subject to citation or penalty. The VPP Participant's Association, which holds Regional and National conferences, is another excellent opportunity for sharing of best practices in safety and health management systems among companies and the government.
All types of industry are involved in VPP, from manufacturing to services to federal worksites. OSHA also has construction and some unique worksites such as mobile worksites in the VPP program.
VPP consists of several programs:
Star - the highest level of achievement within VPP, providing outstanding safety and health protection meeting all the VPP elements and sub-elements, with rates below industry average. Program must have been in place for at least one year.
Merit - a stepping stone to the Star, for worksites with many of the program elements in place, who are committed to providing best worker protection and are willing to work with OSHA to improve the effectiveness of their safety and health program. Company rates may be above national average. Companies in Merit are limited to one 3-year term.
Demonstration - companies performing at the Star level, but for worksites where some Star requirements may not be appropriate, such as companies with a mobile workforce or construction companies working at sites they do not control.