Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) is a program OSHA has set up to reward companies that are proactive with occupational health and safety goals and implementation practices. VPP sites have many benefits as well as rewards internally and externally before the corporation. The primary reward for being a VPP site is the workers will remain safe because the organization values low risk activities. However, they are ancillary benefits such as lower days away restricted transfer rates, lower workers compensation premiums, and increased productivity.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through a system focused on: hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and worker involvement.
To participate, employers must submit an application to OSHA and undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit. VPP participants are re-evaluated every three to five years to remain in the programs. VPP participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.
The VPP program was first developed through an experimental program under California OSHA in 1979. The program was so successful in 1992 federal OSHA announced the first VPP’s site. The VPP program also provide a way for federal agencies to reach this level of safety and health excellence. Some state plans have VPP programs monitored on their own without the federal OSHA intervention. The states have their own requirements in addition to the federal standards, but the program itself remains mostly homogenous.
Ways to Participate
Initially, the voluntary protection program was designed for fixed worksites through the demonstration they can provide a safe healthy workplace for their workers. However, as modern industry has advanced OSHA has created a mobile workforce and VPP corporate designations. The mobile sites are used for people to participate such as contractors or subcontractors moving from site to site. The corporate VPP is designed for applicants having a strong and continuous commitment to improve the safety and health of their organizations. The following charts are on the growth of VPP participants under the federal VPP program and the top industries participating in the program.
One of the benefits to being part of the VPP program is OSHA will exempt the organization from inspection activities except for when there are fatalities, catastrophes, complaints or programmed inspections of the VPP plan. This reduction in inspections and the increased attention to the safety and health culture will lead to the organization saving millions of dollars.
The future of OSHA is to have more compliance assistance programs, such as the VPP program, as opposed to compliance enforcement activities. To illustrate this point further, OSHA has increased the funding for the VPP program for the fiscal year 2019. In addition to funding increase, OSHA has dedicated more full-time employees to administer the VPP Program. Additionally, the federal program is seeking to create a more streamlined and modern approach to the VPP system as a whole.
The mindset of a voluntary protection program site is being proactive for all safety and health concerns. Proactive system will seek to have systems in place for such projects as:
- Fire protection services
- Permit required confined space entry and rescue teams
- Safety and health training
- Fire watch programs and contractors available for special projects
- Specially trained contractors for projects such as plant process turnovers and process safety management activities
OSHA often uses VPP facilities as ambassador to promote the benefits of having a safety culture. It is beneficial for forward thinking organizations and also it is internally rewarding to know workers are being protected at the highest level. These organizations will be able to display the VPP banner at their facility and on all corporate communication.
For more information on becoming a VPP site: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/vpp/index.html