What is VPP?
The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) promote effective worksite-based safety
and health. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative
relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and
health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of
the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary
occupational safety and health.
What Is the Authority for VPP?
The legislative underpinning for VPP is Section (2)(b)(1) of the Occupational
Safety and Health Act of 1970, which declares the Congress’s intent "to assure
so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful
working conditions and to preserve our human resources - (1) by encouraging
employers and employees in their efforts to reduce the number of occupational
safety and health hazards at their places of employment, and to stimulate
employers and employees to institute new and to perfect existing programs for
providing safe and healthful working conditions."
How Does VPP Work?
In practice, VPP sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health
system, invites sites to apply, and then assesses applicants against these
criteria. OSHA’s verification includes an application review and a rigorous
onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts.
OSHA approves qualified sites to one of three programs:
Star: Recognition for employers and employees who demonstrate exemplary
achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health
hazards the development, implementation and continuous improvement of their
safety and health management system.
Merit: Recognition for employers and employees who have developed and
implemented good safety and health management systems but who must take
additional steps to reach Star quality
Demonstration: Recognition for employers and employees who operate effective
safety and health management systems that differ from current VPP requirements.
This program enables OSHA to test the efficacy of different approaches.
When Did VPP Begin?
1979 - California began experimental program
1982 - OSHA formally announced the VPP and approved the first site.
1998 - Federal worksites became eligible for VPP.
How Has VPP Improved Worker Safety & Health?
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(1). These sites typically do not start out with such
low rates. Reductions in injuries and illnesses begin when the site commits to
the VPP approach to safety and health management and the challenging VPP
How Does VPP Benefit Employers?
Fewer injuries and illnesses mean greater profits as workers’ compensation
premiums and other costs plummet. Entire industries benefit as VPP sites evolve
into models of excellence and influence practices industry-wide.
How Does VPP Benefit OSHA?
OSHA gains a corps of ambassadors enthusiastically spreading the message of
safety and health system management. These partners also provide OSHA with
valuable input and augment its limited resources.
Another benefit to OSHA is a safety and health advocacy group that came into
existence as a result of the VPP, the Voluntary Protection Program Participants’
Association (VPPPA). The VPPPA is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985. As
part of its efforts to share the benefits of cooperative programs, the VPPPA
works closely with OSHA and State Plan States in the development and
implementation of cooperative programs. The VPPPA also provides expertise to
these groups in the form of comments and stakeholder feedback on agency
rulemaking and policies. Additionally, the Association provides comments and
testimony to members of Congress regarding legislative bills on health and
What Are Some Unique VPP Innovations?
Special Government Employees: Particularly noteworthy is the OSHA Special
Government Employees Program (SGE) created in 1994. The SGE Program offers
private and public sector safety and health professionals and other qualified
participants the opportunity to exchange ideas, gain new perspectives, and grow
professionally while serving as full-fledged team members on OSHA’s VPP onsite
If you are employed at a VPP site,
see how you can help OSHA and VPP while
gaining valuable experience!
Footnote (1) This information is calculated annually by the Office of
Partnership and Recognition and is based upon the injury and illness data
submitted every year by the VPP participants.