Questions about requirements to get into OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) date back all the way to a Government Accountability Office report in 2004. Now, yet another arm of the federal government is giving the VPP a close look.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Inspector General (OIG) will take a look at the effectiveness of the VPP.
“Incorrect VPP approvals, during preliminary evaluation or a re-evaluation, could leave workers vulnerable,” the OIG says in its 2012 audit plan (PDF here) that lays out which DOL programs it will delve into this year.
OIG’s key questions: Is the VPP performance-based criteria clearly defined and applied consistently to all applicant worksites? Are the participants reevaluated consistently by the different OSHA regions?
The VPP recognizes worksites that implement effective safety and health systems and maintain injury rates below national averages. VPP participants that gain the highest rating are reevaluated every three to five years. Others are reviewed every 18 to 24 months. VPP participants are exempt from OSHA’s programmed inspections.
OSHA is conducting its own review of the VPP. An iWatchNews.org investigation last year showed a number of VPP facilities that experienced worker fatalities remained in the program. The investigation revealed 80 deaths at VPP sites between 2000 and 2008.
Injury rate survey under scrutiny, too
The OIG is also taking a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual Survey of Occupational Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities (IFF).
The Senate Appropriations Committee has expressed concerns about discrepancies found between BLS’ IIF and state workers’ compensation reports. The additional worker injuries in the workers’ comp reports raise questions about the completeness of the BLS data.
OSHA administrator David Michaels believes worker injuries are undercounted by the BLS method.
OIG’s key questions about the BLS’ IFF: What are the differences between IFF data and state workers’ compensation reports that impact the usefulness and reliability of the BLS data? If there are differences, what are the causes? Are the differences indicators that the BLS data is inaccurate or unreliable?
What should OSHA do if the OIG finds serious deficiencies in the VPP and/or BLS IFF? Let us know what you think in the comments below.