March 9, 2023

OSHA to Modernize Its Voluntary Protection Programs

A comment period opened by OSHA in mid-February is part of an agency project intended to modernize its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), which recognize employers and workers who have implemented effective safety and health management systems. VPP was formally established in 1982 and has grown to include approximately 2,200 organizations in a variety of industries. According to OSHA, the program’s growth has made its administration more resource-intensive, complicating the agency’s efforts to ensure the quality of VPP applicants’ safety and health management systems. As it works to modernize and enhance VPP, OSHA seeks input on stakeholders and others on a number of issues, including how the program can contribute to expanding the use and effectiveness of safety and health management systems as well as whether particular categories of hazards should receive special attention in the VPP certification process. A series of questions OSHA is asking commenters to consider also touches on topics such as the alignment of VPP with recent occupational health and safety management practices and standards as well as resources for expanding the program’s capacity without compromising effectiveness and oversight.

According to OSHA (PDF), VPP is effective at reducing injuries and illnesses at participating work sites. For example, the average non-construction VPP work site had a days away, restricted, or transferred (DART) case rate of 53 percent below the average for its industry, and the DART rate for participating work sites in the site-based construction and mobile workforce categories was 60 percent below industry average. OSHA notes that VPP also encourages work sites to continuously improve. The agency explains that VPP sites are required to submit self-evaluation reports annually to ensure that they are creating and meeting new safety and health goals and objectives.

“Expanding the possible pathways to VPP will help the agency achieve its vision of making safety and health a core value in American workplaces,” OSHA’s notice on modernizing VPP (PDF) states. “The experience of VPP participants suggests greater use of [safety and health management systems] can help reduce the impact of injuries and illness on workers and their families.”

OSHA’s goals for VPP include aligning the program more closely with recent occupational health and safety management practices and standards; expanding the number of VPP participants; and identifying ways that certified safety and health professionals, third-party auditors, and others can assist in ensuring the quality of VPP participants’ management systems.

The full list of questions published by OSHA can be found in a public notice about modernizing VPP (PDF). The deadline for submitting comments is April 14, 2023. Further details can be found in OSHA’s press release and on the agency’s website.

Related:Active Health and Safety,” a feature article published in the March 2019 Synergist, focuses on the latest revision of the ANSI/ASSP Z10 standard for occupational health and safety management systems, which was released later in 2019.