WASHINGTON — Senator Mike Braun, Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Richard Burr, and Senator Tim Scott have introduced the bipartisan Voluntary Protection Program Act in the Senate, a bill that would codify and revive an OSHA program that encourages businesses to adopt stringent safety and health standards for their employees.
Voluntary Protection Program businesses are exempt from certain OSHA bureaucratic requirements, and have shown injury and illness rates 50 percent lower than industry averages.
The bill’s companion legislation in the House was introduced by Representative Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) with Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) as original cosponsors.
OSHA notes the purpose of the Voluntary Protection Programs is to “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,” according to its website.
“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,” said the website. “To participate, employers must submit an application to OSHA and undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals.”
VPP business sites have injury and illness rates 50 percent lower than industry averages.
VPP safeguards nearly 1 million workers and 700 local unions at 2,200 worksites across the U.S.
VPP saves private sector employers $257 million and public sector employers $30 million in workers’ compensation, insurance, and lost time costs by promoting safer workplaces.
The Voluntary Protection Program has been operated by OSHA since 1982, but is currently not a statutory program, meaning it can be eliminated or defunded at any time based on the preference of the administration. This bill would make the program law.
“Businesses that go above and beyond to keep their employees safe and healthy should be encouraged, and business sites participating in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program have shown injury and illness rates 50 percent lower than industry averages,” Braun said. “That’s why I introduced the Voluntary Protection Program Act to make sure this program is available for years to come.”
“The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) saves private sector employers $257 million and public sector employers $30 million in workers’ compensation, insurance, and lost time costs,” said the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association.
“More than that, VPP saves lives and gets workers everywhere home to their families and friends,” it continued. “The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association, Inc. (VPPPA) is a leader in worksite and worker safety and health advocacy through an established presence in each OSHA region, promoting a constructive and productive dialogue between labor, management, and regulators.”
VPPPA Chairperson Terry Schulte said, “The members of VPPPA are a passionate group of safety professionals who have dedicated their professional lives to ensuring the health, welfare, and safety of workers everywhere. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the VPP and therefore the introduction of the VPP Act (H.R. 2363).”
This bill would allow the Secretary of Labor to establish a program of entering into cooperative agreements with employers to encourage the establishment of comprehensive safety and health management systems that include:
requirements for systematic assessment of hazards;
comprehensive hazard prevention, mitigation, and control programs;
active and meaningful management and employee participation in the voluntary program described in subsection (b); and
employee safety and health training.
The bill codifies VPP from merely a vague mention in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 into a statutory program that cannot be eliminated based on the preference of the Administration. This authorization does not sunset, solidifying the program for years to come.