OSHA's Barab Testifies on VPP before House Subcommittee

Published July 5, 2012

On June 28, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jordan Barab gave testimony before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections on OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). His statement included VPP success stories, "difficult decisions" the agency has had to make regarding VPP, and comments on safety incentive programs and the integrity of VPP.

OSHA “is very proud of VPP and we believe that the program represents a necessary and effective way to recognize and reward companies that make the safety and health of their employees their highest priority,” Barab said. "The most obvious evidence of the program's success is the impressive reduction in occupational injury and illness rates, as well as reduced workers' compensation costs and decreased employee turnover." As of May 31, there were 2,374 active VPP sites—federal and state—covering 911,000 workers in the U.S.

While discussing VPP's success, Barab cited data that shows that site-based non-construction VPP participants' total case incident rates (TCIR)—the total number of nonfatal recordable injuries and illnesses per 100 employees—are 45 percent below Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) rates. Barab stated that for site-based construction and mobile workforce VPP participants, TCIR are 60 percent below BLS rates.

Regarding challenges that OSHA faces with VPP, Barab said, "[OSHA needs] to make some very hard decisions about how to allocate our limited resources where we will get the most worker protection 'bang for our buck.'" Barab noted OSHA's investment of "significant resources" in state-based On-site Consultation Programs and the On-site Consultation Program's Safety and Health Recognition Program (SHARP). The deputy assistant secretary also stated that OSHA "found it necessary to increase resources for [the] Whistleblower program."

Barab closed his comments by discussing Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports from 2004 and 2009 that identified flaws in VPP. The agency responded to those criticisms by issuing five policy memoranda "designed to strengthen the management and internal control of VPP," initiating annual audits of regional offices' VPP participant files, and updating its Management Accountability Program in Sept. 2010.

Read Barab's full testimony on OSHA's website.