All About VPP

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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 application process.

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 safety issues.

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 evaluations.

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.