"Ensuring the integrity of VPP is one thing, but our most important challenge is preserving the existence of the VPP," Michaels said. "Let me be clear: OSHA is trying to save VPP, not end it."
However, Michaels said tight budgets, limited staff, and calls to cut programs and expenses in every government agency present a serious challenge. In response, OSHA is trying to save VPP by seeking nongovernment funding.
"OSHA and the Department of Labor support the idea of funding VPP through participant fees," he said. "While many VPP participants worry that user fees may undermine the integrity of the program, we have reassuring evidence of successful user fee programs in other agencies."
The VPP was designed to recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies that have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries.
Participation involves management, workers and OSHA establishing relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system.
The average VPP work site has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred case rate of 52 percent below the average for its industry, according to OSHA statistics. The benefit to employers is greater profits since workers' comp premiums and other costs are reduced.
OSHA says it is listening.
Michaels assured the 25,000 attendees that some recent complaints have not fallen on deaf ears. In its effort to put more resources into enforcement and standard setting, OSHA eliminated the former annual quotas for new VPP members. At the same time, Michaels said the agency has been committed to signing up and reapproving worthy companies.
"We have heard your complaints that some OSHA regions have not been pursuing new programs and reapprovals aggressively enough and we are seeking to correct that. Despite these issues, this fiscal year we signed up 108 new VPP members and reapproved 150," he said.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 19, 2010
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