• Information Date
  • Presented To
    Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association
  • Speaker(s)
    Edwin G. Foulke Jr.
  • Status
Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Remarks prepared for

24th National Conference of the
Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association

Anaheim, California
Monday, August 25, 2008

Good afternoon, everyone. I am delighted to join you for another national meeting of this great Association. Your spirit, enthusiasm, and commitment to employee safety and health make this an invigorating experience.

On behalf of everyone at OSHA, I want to express my gratitude to each of you. We recognize and applaud your commitment to workplace safety and health.

Special thanks to Davis Layne, your Executive Director. Davis knows all about the challenges that OSHA faces, as well as the benefits of our strong partnership. I also want to thank Mike Maddox, the outgoing Chairperson of your National Board of Directors, for his many years of service to the Association and to VPP. Thanks also to the members of your National Board and the Regional Chapter Chairs.

A special aspect of this conference is the diverse audience. Yet, whether you are a long-time participant, or someone whose worksite only recently qualified for VPP, all of you are united in your commitment to protecting employees. I always like to recognize our newest VPP participants. So, if your worksite gained approval in the last 12 months, please stand and let us congratulate you. Welcome to the VPP family; it is great to have you here.

In the few minutes we have together today, I hope to accomplish three things. First, I want to assure you that your efforts in VPP are important and valued; second, I want you to know that VPP is succeeding. More and more worksites are hearing and responding to our message of effective safety and health management. Together, we are saving lives; finally, I want to inspire you to keep up the good work!

OSHA does its best to assure the safety and health of America's employees, but we cannot do it alone. Through VPP, you are the people who see that businesses and government agencies reach the highest levels of excellence.

Not much is certain in today's world, but there is one thing I know for sure: To end fatalities, injuries, and illnesses on the job, nothing is more effective than prevention...and what better way to prevent workplace hazards than through the cooperative, voluntary efforts championed by VPP?

You may not realize this, but you have helped shape OSHA's future. OSHA's cooperative programs, and especially VPP, are having a profound impact on our mission and vision. Over the last two years, OSHA's managers have met several times to plan the future of the Agency. As a result, we are moving forward under the banner, "OSHA 2020: One OSHA, One Mission."

Our vision for the Agency is to see an effective safety and health management system in every workplace in America. Ladies and gentlemen, that vision is part of your legacy - to OSHA, and to our Nation. VPP is an essential element in our quest to see an effective safety and health management system in every workplace. This is why OSHA is looking to VPP participants more than ever before to relay our message.

In fact, I want to challenge the managers of every VPP company

here today: Highlight your VPP achievements on your web sites, in your business presentations, and in your news releases, promotional literature and annual reports. After so much effort to gain and retain your VPP status, you should be telling the world about your achievement!

VPP is strong, it is growing, and it is getting results. With just over 2,000 participants today, VPP is having a direct impact on more than 840,000 employees.

We reached the 2,000-participant milestone just last month, when we presented a VPP Star flag to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals' research and production facility in Pearl River, New York. Wyeth Pearl River has the lowest rates for employee lost-time injuries and illnesses among the major pharmaceutical companies in the United States. With 3,200 employees, Pearl River is the 8th Wyeth plant to earn STAR approval.

Next, let me bring you up-to-date on some of the other things happening in VPP.

The VPP Corporate Pilot continues to do well. Six corporations have been approved: Dow Chemical, Georgia Pacific, General Electric, Washington Division /URS Group, U.S. Postal Service, and our newest participant, Fluor Corporation. In addition, we recently conducted a VPP Corporate onsite visit at Parsons Corporation, and we continue to receive applications from many others.

In OSHA's Fortune 500 Initiative, 15 of the 60 Fortune 500 companies contacted by OSHA have committed to VPP. This is a 1-in-4 response, which any salesperson will tell you is outstanding.

Our VPP Mobile Workforce Demonstration Program for Construction is growing, with both large and small companies coming forward. This Demo is providing new opportunities to recognize and promote excellence within the construction industry - and this is very good news.

Meanwhile, more and more federal agencies are adopting the VPP model. Every year the list grows longer. In fact, with the commitment of the Department of Defense and the Postal Service, I believe that one day VPP will impact over half of the federal government.

I am proud that OSHA is also bringing more worksites into VPP. Several of our Area Offices have achieved Star status, and you know how much effort this entails! An independent team of Special Government Employees conducted the evaluations for these Area Offices - and they were tough!

VPP is also having a significant impact on contractors: Government Executive Magazine recently identified the Top 100 Contractors working for the Federal Government. Of these, 28% are recognized by VPP.

Another VPP program, the OSHA Challenge Pilot, provides a roadmap for employers to improve their performance and implement an effective safety and health management system. On average, our Challenge participants are experiencing a 37%-plus reduction in their injury and illness rates.

As VPP grows, managing these Programs and maintaining our high standards continue to be a challenge - and our Special Government Employees Program is an essential part of this effort. As many of you know, SGEs are volunteers from our VPP companies. OSHA provides them with training so they may serve as full-fledged members on VPP evaluation teams. How many of you are Special Government Employees? If you are an SGE, please stand up and be recognized...

Today, you are 900-strong and growing. You have served on more than 70 percent of all VPP on-site evaluations this year.

Because SGEs are so important to VPP, 3 years ago we established an SGE of the Year Award. This award recognizes a Special Government Employee who demonstrates exceptional service to VPP. As I announce the nominees for the 4th Annual SGE of the Year Award, would they please join me on stage?

Region I: Jack Popp, Hasbro
Region II: Diane Palmer, General Electric
Region III: Larry Shaffer, International Paper
Region IV: Rick Thacker, Trinity Rail
Region V: Jack Burton, General Electric
Region VI: Don Schwertner, Valero
Region VII: Ernie Nold, Weyerhaeuser
Region VIII: Robert Finnie, MillerCoors
Region IX: Robert Hafner, Rohm & Haas

Congratulations on your achievements and your commitment to employee safety and health. Every one of you is a champion - a VPP Star! Let us give this year's nominees a big round of applause!

It is now my honor and pleasure to announce the recipient of the 2008 SGE of the Year Award. It goes to: Larry Shaffer, International Paper, Franklin, Virginia.

OSHA and this Association have a long and successful history of working together to make VPP stronger. I applaud the Association for assuming full responsibility for your Mentoring Program, which matches VPP sites with potential applicants. At both the national and chapter levels, you support OSHA and enhance the VPP experience - and I thank you!

Still, there are many ways that you can continue to help ensure VPP's health and future success: I urge you to volunteer for our SGE Program. Please share your success stories, and talk about VPP's benefits wherever you go. I hope you will also consider volunteering as an Administrator for OSHA Challenge.

OSHA has a new page on our website that should interest every company in America: "Making the Business Case for Safety and Health." We offer many useful case studies, success stories, and links to important research studies. Please: Visit this new web page and use the information to spread the news: Protecting employees is not only every employer's legal responsibility - it also makes good business sense.

Before I leave you today, I would like to take you on a quick walk through OSHA history. It is an understatement to say that every OSHA Assistant Secretary faces daunting challenges. Imagine: We are appointed by the President of the United States to serve a brief term. In those few years, we must learn how OSHA works from the inside, and then look for ways to improve it. Each Assistant Secretary tries to make a difference.

A few months ago, OSHA contacted all the former Assistant Secretaries. We sat them before a camera and asked them to recall what it meant to lead OSHA, to work with OSHA employees, and to pursue the Agency's noble mission of assuring the safety and health of America's working men and women.

I have brought with me today a few moments from those interviews. Many thanks to Stan Hankin and his able crew for putting this video together.

My friends: From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for everything you do for VPP. Have a great conference!