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New legislation would ‘cement’ OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs

Two U.S. senators have introduced bipartisan legislation that would establish the permanent continuance of the Voluntary Protection Programs created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Voluntary Protection Program Act, introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY., is intended to strengthen participation in the health and safety programs by both public and private employers. In a statement, Enzi noted that Congressional action to "cement" the VPP will ensure its continued existence. Under the legislation, Congress would not be able to withdraw funding for the VPP at a later time.

"More than 2,200 worksites have participated in VPP since the program was established in 1982."

"As a former small business owner, I understand both the importance of maintaining a safe workplace as well as the burdens that can be imposed by federal regulations," Enzi said. "The Voluntary Protection Program has encouraged a culture of health and safety in the workplace that is great for workers along with saving the government and private sector hundreds of millions of dollars by avoiding injuries and illness."

VPP improves worksite safety
According to OSHA, the VPP is designed to recognize worksites in both private industry and federal agencies that have successfully implemented a health and safety management program that has reduced injury and illness rates. Employers are recognized under the VPP if their injuries and illnesses fall below the national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their industries.

VPP creates a framework under which management and labor work with OSHA to improve hazard prevention and control, training, managerial commitment to safety and worker participation. To participate in VPP, employers apply to OSHA and then submit to an onsite evaluation and hazard analysis. The program also requires participants to be re-evaluated every three to five years and to obtain union support if workers are represented by a bargaining unit.

As Safety + Health magazine reported, more than 2,200 worksites have participated in VPP since the program was established in 1982. The legislation will go to the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee before receiving full Senate consideration. Similar legislation was introduced to the House of Representatives in May 2015.

In a statement, Bennet said the continuation of the VPP will protect the safety of workers in his home state of Colorado, as well as in the rest of the country.

"VPP is a proven model that encourages labor and management to work together to improve the safety of their work environments. Our bill ensures that OSHA can continue to use this successful and cost-effective program to ensure the health and safety of Colorado workers."

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