Vermont Endorses the VPP
In January of 2003, Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA) the agency charged with the enforcement of workplace safety and health regulation, officially endorsed a longstanding partnership program called Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).
The VPP concept originated as a construction partnership program between CAL OSHA and a general contractor involved with building a nuclear power plant in 1979 and later was adopted by Federal OSHA. The first OSHA VPP site was accepted in 1982, with present day numbers in excess of 1000 sites. The authority for the establishment of VPP and other partnership programs is granted under section 2(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
What is GMVPP?
Green Mountain Voluntary Protection Programs is a VOSHA partnership program, which promotes effective worksite-based safety and health. In the GMVPP, management, labor, and VOSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into GMVPP is VOSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health. This program recognizes companies that have exemplary safety and health programs and have demonstrated a superior management commitment to the safety and health of their employees. VOSHA initially will verify that an employer’s program meets the GMVPP criteria. VOSHA then publicly recognizes the program and removes the site from routine scheduled inspection lists, although VOSHA may still investigate major accidents and valid formal employee complaints. VOSHA will reassess the recognized sites periodically to confirm that they continue to meet GMVPP criteria.
How does GMVPP Work?
The VPP concept is built around the comprehensive safety and health management system, which is developed by a job site. This system must meet four core elements; Management leadership and employee involvement; Worksite analysis; Hazard prevention and control; Safety and health training. A number of sub-elements, which follow each element, provide a “road map” for an employer to meet the minimum requirements of each element. In addition, a worksite must have a three-year average injury/illness rate, which is below at least one of the last three posted years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in that site’s SIC code. Once a site achieves these objectives, they are invited to apply to participate in the VPP. VOSHA’s verification includes an application review and a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of VOSHA safety and health professionals.
OSHA approves qualified sites to one of four programs:
- Construction Star
Once a worksite is approved in the GMVPP, they must submit annual self evaluations of their safety and health management systems. In addition the GMVPP team will conduct scheduled on site reevaluations periodically.
How does GMVPP benefit employers?
Statistical evidence shows that employers involved with the GMVPP realize a significant reduction in injury and illness rates. Historically the average rate reduction by these worksites is 52 percent. Fewer injuries and illnesses lead’s to greater profitability as workers comp. Insurance rates fall. In addition the hidden costs of injuries and illnesses, which in some cases can run as high as four times the direct costs will plummet. Employers who have chosen the GMVPP route continue to enjoy higher productivity, more willingness by employees to become engaged and an increase in sharing of ideas at the work site. Employers who participate in the GMVPP are exposed to a wealth of information from other industry sites and models of “best practices” of which they can compare.
How does GMVPP affect employees?
Employees at participating VPP worksites typically are more engaged. These employees openly express the desire that their employer “do well”. They have the confidence in knowing that when they go to their place of employment, their employer has their best interest at heart first and foremost. This confidence is noticeable when the VPP team conducts the site visits and employee interviews.
How does VPP benefit VOSHA?
With every GMVPP site, VOSHA gains another high visibility, ambassador in our efforts to promote job site safety and health management systems. Because the GMVPP concept precludes the idea of simple “minimum compliance” VOSHA is also able to learn from these employers as they continue to strive for “best practices” in provided cutting edge protection techniques for their employees.
VOSHA also benefits greatly from the membership group called the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association (VPPPA). This non-profit group, which is not affiliated with the government works closely with OSHA and state plan states to provide services such as mentoring, and the development and implementation of cooperative programs. Additionally, the Association provides comments and testimony to members of Congress regarding legislative bills on health and safety issues.
Finally, VOSHA benefits by a special program called Special Government Employees (SGE). This unique program, which was established in 1994, allows chosen employees of a VPP worksite to take part in and work along side of the VPP team as full fledged team members. This program offers VOSHA the ability to conserve resources and, more importantly to provide a unique, perspective in the evaluation process. Employees who volunteer for this program are sworn as government employees and the employer generously picks up the expense. The employer in return gains valuable knowledge of other safety and health practices of which they can use to improve their own management systems.
Though the Green Mountain VPP plan is administered by the state of Vermont, it follows closely the model as developed and administered by region one OSHA.