An investigation by iWatchNews.org shows a number of employee deaths at “model workplaces” within OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) haven’t been recorded in the agency’s database that monitors the program. And the facilities remain in VPP today.
iWatch has identified at least 15 deaths since 2000 that weren’t included in OSHA’s VPP database.
- An explosion launched pieces of metal that struck and killed a worker
- Equipment crushed a worker to death, and
- A flash fire fatally burned a worker.
OSHA has admitted the omissions. In a statement to iWatch, OSHA says, “The inclusion of fatalities in the database didn’t always occur as it should have. We are continuing to strengthen the procedures for the reporting and tracking of fatalities at VPP sites.”
In at least 11 of the cases, the facilities remain in VPP today.
Just days before iWatch delivered its report, OSHA administrator David Michaels spoke at the National Safety Council’s (NSC) 2011 Congress in Philadelphia and called VPP a “great program.”
Just over a year ago, Michaels was calling for VPP to be funded through user fees paid by participating companies instead of federal government dollars.
However, Michaels told reporters after his NSC speech that the federal funding for VPP hasn’t changed.
Of course, the intervening event between his call for participant funding of VPP last year and his statements about the program this year was the 2010 mid-term Congressional election in which Republicans took over the House and Democrats lost seats in the Senate.
OSHA is often mentioned by Republicans as one of the key agencies that kills U.S. jobs. Michaels says OSHA doesn’t kill jobs, it keeps employees from being killed on the job. Some Tea Party loyalists have called for OSHA’s funding to be reduced significantly.
After the mid-term elections, bills were introduced in both the House and Senate to make VPP a permanent part of OSHA. Those bills haven’t been passed, but their introduction sent a message to OSHA: Don’t mess with VPP.
Before the 2010 elections, Michaels and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said on numerous occasions that, with the limited financial resources available to OSHA, he’d rather put more money into enforcement than employer assistance programs like VPP. Statements like that have dried up since the 2010 elections.
Now, it’s more likely that OSHA officials will refer to VPP as a model for companies to create their own safety management systems, also known as injury and illness prevention programs (I2P2s).
OSHA has proposed a new regulation that would require companies to create their own I2P2s.
Does OSHA need to do a better job of kicking undeserving companies out of VPP? Should participating companies have to fund the program through fees? Tell us what you think in the comments below.