What is the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)?

The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), adopted by OSHA on July 2, 1982, has established the creditability of cooperative action among government, industry, and labor to address worker safety and health issues and expand worker protection. Requirements for VPP participants are based on comprehensive management systems with active employee involvement to prevent and control the potential safety and health hazards of the site. Companies which qualify generally view OSHA standards as a minimum level of safety and health performance and set their own more stringent standards where necessary for effective employee protection.

OSHA's Voluntary Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines were published in January, 1989. Based upon OSHA's experience with the VPP, they have been accepted as effective criteria for organizing a managed safety and health program. For consistency in OSHA's approach to safety and health program management, it is necessary to organize the VPP requirements to conform closely with these Guidelines. This has been accomplished with few changes other than merging the six elements of the VPP into the four elements of the Guidelines. These elements now include, Management Commitment, Employee Involvement, Hazard Assessment and Control, and Safety and Health Training.

Purpose of the Voluntary Protection Programs

OSHA has long recognized that compliance with occupational safety and health standards alone cannot accomplish all the goals of the Act. The standards, no matter how carefully conceived and developed, will never cover all unsafe and unhealthful activities and conditions. Furthermore, limited resources will never permit regular or exhaustive inspections of all of the nation's workplaces. No amount of standard setting and enforcement can replace the understanding of work processes, materials, and hazards that comes with employers' and employees' day-to-day, on-the-job experience. This knowledge, combined with the ability to evaluate and address hazards rapidly and to reward positive action, places employers in a unique position to improve workplace safety and health in ways simply not available to OSHA.

The purpose of the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) is to emphasize the importance of, encourage the improvement of, and recognize excellence in employer-provided, employeeparticipation, and generally site-specific occupational safety and health programs. These programs are comprised of management systems for preventing or controlling occupational hazards. The systems not only ensure that OSHA's standards are met, but, using flexibility and creativity in striving for excellence, go beyond the standards to provide the best feasible protections for workers at that site. In the process, these worksites serve as models for effective safety and health programs in their industries.

Worksites in the VPP are removed from programmed inspection lists for the duration of their participation. This frees OSHA's inspection resources for visits to establishments that are less likely to met the requirements of the OSHA standards. VPP participants enter into a new relationship with OSHA, one in which safety and health problems can be approached cooperatively when and if they arise.

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