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An introduction to OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs

Beginning in 1982, the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has demonstrated its effectiveness at building safer workplaces. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), “Statistical evidence for VPP’s success is impressive. The average VPP worksite has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate of 52% below the average for its industry. These sites typically do not start out with such low rates.” Lower DART rates benefit employers by reducing workers’ compensation premiums and other costs, and increasing profits.

The aim of OSHA’s VPPs is to improve workplace safety by cooperating with companies that have comprehensive safety and health management systems.

Qualified workplaces are approved as one of three VPP categories:

•    Star recognition is offered to worksites that achieve a high level of hazard prevention and are dedicated to the continuous improvement of their safety and health management systems, leading to injury and illness rates that are the same as, or less than the national average of similar industries

•    Merit workplaces are recognized for their good safety and health systems and their commitment to improve those systems to the level of Star quality over a three-year period

•    Star Demonstration status is designed for workplaces with outstanding health and safety systems that differ from current VPP requirements. Participants in the Star Demonstration VPP help OSHA to test the effectiveness of alternative systems

VPPs are open to all groups covered under OSHA, including federal agencies. To be eligible, workplaces must develop a safety and health management system, show strong management leadership and worker participation, complete self-evaluations, and achieve good health and safety results. 

During the VPP application process, each workplace undergoes a thorough review that includes inspections of the site and its records, interviews, and meetings. These inspections ensure that participants are using appropriate health and safety practices, training methods, and safety supplies.

Once approved as a VPP participant, Star sites are evaluated on their performance and progress every three to five years, Merit sites every 18 to 24 months, and Star Demonstration sites every 12 to 18 months. During these evaluations, illness and injury rates are compared with national averages. 

OSHA states that the programs helps advance its mission, because participants act as enthusiastic ambassadors, championing the benefits of solid health and safety programs. Entire industries can benefit through VPPs by influencing industry-wide safe practices. These members serve as industry models of excellence, influencing the health and safety practices of their peers.

Employers can show employees and their communities they are committed to safety by participating in OSHA’s VPPs. Contact OSHA for a free on-site consultation that can indicate what safety practices, training, and personal protective equipment or other safety supplies are needed to reduce workplace injuries.

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