A government report critical of the Voluntary Protection Program was expected by many. OSHA’s response to the report is even more interesting.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that OSHA’s internal controls aren’t sufficient to ensure that only qualified worksites participate in VPP.
From January 2003 to August 2008, 30 VPP sites had fatalities. The GAO found that some sites had safety and health violations related to the fatalities and remained in the VPP despite no longer meeting the definition of an exemplary workplace.
OSHA’s response to the GAO report came swiftly. It said it’s committed to fixing any problems with the program.
But the headline OSHA put on its own press release tells the real story: “OSHA begins evaluation of Voluntary Protection Program.”
The release goes on to say that OSHA’s evaluation will “determine how the agency should best allocate its resources among cooperative programs, enforcement and the agency’s other activities.”
VPP and its related Alliance Program will go under the microscope “to determine their effectiveness as well as review the programs’ roles in helping the agency promote the safety and health of America’s workers.”
Acting OSHA administrator Jordan Barab noted that the agency hadn’t acted on a 2004 GAO report that suggested an evaluation of VPP’s effectiveness.
The Obama administration has made no secret of wanting to increase OSHA enforcement. It’s already allocated more funding to do that. One more way the administration could devote more money to enforcement: Reallocate money from cooperative programs such as VPP to inspections.
You can download the GAO’s report here.