The controversy has been brewing for years, but now OSHA has announced what it will do going forward when it finds a company in its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has had a fatality or multiple injuries.
A new directive from OSHA administrator David Michaels lays out what will happen when a death or three serious injuries that require hospitalizations occur at a VPP site.
If OSHA inspects the facility, its VPP status will be changed to “Inactive Pending Fatality/Catastrophe Inspection.”
After the inspection is completed, one of the following two scenarios will take place:
- If a fatality is deemed work-related, a site is placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program or a willful violation is issued, OSHA will send a “notice of intent to terminate” the facility’s participation in the VPP within 10 days of the inspection’s completion.
- If a violation other than willful is issued or there is no violation issued, the Regional Administrator for OSHA will make a recommendation on whether the facility should be allowed to continue in the program. The OSHA administrator will make the final decision.
Employers would have a limited amount of time to appeal any decision to remove a facility from the program.
The VPP recognizes employers that have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national averages for their industries. VPP participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections.
Companies allowed to stay in
The controversy over the VPP started with a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2009 that found 30 VPP sites had fatalities over a five-year period. Some facilities had OSHA violations related to the fatalities but remained in the program despite no longer meeting the definition of an exemplary workplace for safety.
OSHA’s response to the GAO report came quickly. It said it was committed to fixing any problems with the program.
Two years later, the Center for Public Integrity released its report that uncovered more deaths at VPP facilities. It found 15 more deaths since 2000 that weren’t included in OSHA’s VPP database. OSHA owned up to the omissions. Out of the 15 cases, 11 facilities were still in the VPP.
As of March 31, 2013, there were 2,333 facilities in the VPP.
Do you think OSHA has set up reasonable procedures for when a fatality or catastrophe occurs at a VPP facility? Let us know in the comments below.