As the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration looks to modernize its voluntary safety programs to recognize employers with exemplary safety records, two organizations have announced a partnership to help drive consensus standards to promote compliance.
The American Society of Safety Professionals and the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association announced June 15 a collaboration to help federal workplace safety regulators modernize safety and health standards.
Earlier in June, at ASSP’s annual conference in San Antonio, Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said that among OSHA’s priorities, in addition to tougher enforcement actions, is improving the way the agency recognizes employers whose injury rates are considered low for their respective industry — the core of VPP.
The partnership between ASSP and VPPPA developed earlier this month while representatives from both organizations were in Washington attending an OSHA meeting discussing plans to improve VPP, which began in 1982.
“We see it as the gold standard for safety and health management,” Chris Williams, VPPPA’s executive director, said of VPP.
As OSHA begins VPP modernization, Mr. Williams that his organization and ASSP see an opportunity to assist regulators in their mission to improve safety, benefiting both employees and employers.
“We have an important role that we play in helping OSHA,” he said. “Our members are raising the bar for a safe and healthy workplace, and we’re doing it in a number of ways, and there’s an opportunity to start here with VPP modernization.”
Pam Walaski, ASSP president-elect, said one of the key recommendations to come out of OSHA’s stakeholder meeting was to review the process for how an entity becomes part of the VPP.
The VPP, she said, has not been modernized since its inception.
ASSP and VPPPA will work to develop recommendations for a construction and demolition specific VPP, as the program has historically been more focused on manufacturing and other industrial facilities.
“It has been a bit more of a challenge for construction companies to meet the requirements of the VPP,” Ms Walaski said.
Construction was often left out of the loop because of VPP’s lengthy application process, as construction projects are often complete by the time VPP eligibility is confirmed, she said.
“This is the beginning of a long-term collaborative relationship that will allow us to really move the needle on protecting workers,” said Mr. Williams.
Edwin Palmer, an employer defense attorney at the Pittsburgh-based law firm Burns White LLC, praised the collaboration.
“These are groups that know the industries they’re working with,” Palmer said. “They know the processes. They know how people can work safely in these industries and what kinds of measurables are included in good health and safety management programs.”
Palmer said the construction angle being pushed by ASSP and VPPPA is beneficial because it will help influence how OSHA can modernize its approach to that industry.
Louise Esola contributed to this report.