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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on June 18 announced that it will address problems identified in its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) in response to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs: Improved Oversight and Controls Would Better Ensure Program Quality”. The report recommends improved oversight and additional controls to ensure participating companies maintain effective workplace safety and health management systems.
OSHA also has announced that it will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of its VPP and Alliance Program to determine how the agency should best allocate its resources among cooperative programs, enforcement and the agency's other activities.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab said he agrees with recommendations made in the GAO report. GAO's analysis recommended that OSHA strengthen the program's oversight activity, documentation and other aspects of program operations and impact to ensure consistency and adherence to existing OSHA policies and procedures. VPP participation encompasses more than 2,200 worksites covering more than 800,000 workers.
"We will thoroughly review the VPP and Alliance Program to determine their effectiveness as well as review the programs' roles in helping the agency promote the safety and health of America's workers," said Barab.
He noted that OSHA had not adequately addressed the findings of the GAO's 2004 report, OSHA's Voluntary Compliance Strategies Show Promising Results, But Should Be Fully Evaluated Before They Are Expanded. "The report noted that OSHA had not fully evaluated the effectiveness of its cooperative programs and was therefore 'limited in its ability to make a sound decision about how best to allocate its resources,'" said Barab. "Our evaluation of these programs in the context of OSHA's limited resources will help ensure that OSHA will be able to reprioritize these resources in the most effective manner."
To address the most recent GAO report's findings and recommendations about the VPP, OSHA will review and address problems including program management and oversight policies and procedures; documentation policy for actions taken in response to fatalities and serious injuries at VPP sites; and goals and performance measures for the VPP and internal OSHA controls that ensure consistent compliance with VPP policies by the agency's regional offices.