Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Make OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs Permanent

A new bill before congress — the Voluntary Protection Program Act — aims to make OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) more permanent and more difficult to defund.

The VPP allows employers who believe they have implemented exemplary health and safety management programs to apply to undergo a voluntary inspection from OSHA representatives. If applicants pass this rigorous inspection, not only can they point to a high level of demonstrated commitment to worker safety, but the qualifying workplace also becomes exempt from programmed OSHA inspections for up to five years.

The new bill has been introduced by the bipartisan team of Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN), Gene Green (D-TX) and Martha Roby (R-AL).

“The Voluntary Protection Program is one of the few programs that has achieved unified support from both union and non-unionized labor, small and large businesses, and government,” said Representative Green in a press release which also noted that over 2,200 workplaces (with 900,000 employees) are currently participating in the VPP.

“VPP helps companies become compliant with workplace safety rules on the front end to avoid costly fines and harmful penalties on the back end,” added Representative Roby. “It’s a smart way to ensure a safe and productive workplace, while also making government smaller and more efficient.”

All entities covered by OSHA, including federal agencies, are eligible to participate in the VPP. Employers who successfully qualify for a VPP exemption can do so on two levels. Employers can qualify at the “Merit” level, which exempts them from further evaluations and inspections for 18-24 months, or the “Star” level, which exempts them for three to five years. OSHA says the on-site review for businesses seeking VPP exemption typically involves:

  • A site review lasting up to four days
  • A review of all safety and health programs
  • A review of records, logs, and the results of previous OSHA inspections
  • Meetings with management, staff, and employees

OSHA’s own statistics show that the average VPP qualified worksite has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate of 52 percent lower than the average for their industry. 

OSHA first launched the VPP in 1982, but it was never explicitly set forth in (or authorized by) any kind of law or congressional act. This bill will mark the second time that the U.S. House has considered legislation that would make the VPP more permanent.

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