It’s not a secret anymore that OSHA under the Obama administration will focus more on enforcement than employer assistance programs. But a U.S. senator has introduced a bill to make one such program for companies a permanent fixture at OSHA.
Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) is the sponsor of S.B. 3257, which would restore funding to OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and mandate that it continue.
A co-measure sponsored by Enzi would restore $3.1 million of funding to VPP. The funding measure has passed out of committee to the entire Senate. S.B. 3257 remains in committee.
The VPP encourages companies to go above and beyond basic OSHA regulations by conducting risk assessments, mitigating hazards and reducing employee injuries. Worker involvement is an integral part of the program.
More than 2,300 companies participate in VPP.
However, it’s not just current OSHA leadership that has its doubts about VPP.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last year concluded that OSHA lacked controls to assure companies maintain the criteria to qualify for the program.
The GAO said as a result, some facilities that no longer met the requirements remained in the program.
But that doesn’t mean the entire program isn’t working, either.
VPP participant Westar Energy of Topeka, KS, has reduced its workers’ comp losses because the program requires a company to log a total case incident rate that’s 50% below the national average for its industry.
What do you think is the right balance for OSHA to maintain between enforcement and employer assistance programs? What should happen to VPP, especially given the GAO report? Let us know in the Comments Box below.