As an employer, did you know the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides the framework for helping you protect your bottom line?
Known best as the foundation for protecting workers from workplace hazards and enforcing employer responsibilities, OSHA also recognizes employers who go above and beyond in their health and safety planning with their Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). By implementing safety plans that meet OSHA’s criteria for VPP, you can generate a solid ROI on your safety investment.
What is the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)?
OHSA’s VPP is a federal program that uses performance-based criteria to recognize employee-driven safety programs and management commitment to strong safety practices. The VPP requires robust safety programs that exceed OSHA regulations and can demonstrate effective workplace injury prevention.
How Does OSHA VPP Work?
In preparation for OSHA’s VPP certification, employers must have injury rates that are below their industry’s average and maintain four core elements for a minimum of one year. The core elements include hazard control, safety training, jobsite analysis, and management leadership and worker involvement.
Preparing for VPP certification is a multi-year process that includes a lengthy onsite evaluation, where safety management systems, working conditions, and employee interviews are used to assess whether the organization meets the threshold for one of three potential VPP designations:
The highest achievement in health and safety management, implementation, and continuous improvement, companies who receive a star rating are models of safety excellence. Open to all industries, Star-level sites must have an injury rate at or below the industry average and meet all VPP criteria. Star sites are evaluated every three to five years.
When companies have strong management systems and VPP elements in place but do not meet the rigorous requirements for the Star program, they may qualify for the Merit program. Open to all industries, a Merit-level company must have injury rates 35% below the industry average. Companies are encouraged to continue to improve to reach the Star designation.
OSHA provides this recognition for employers who demonstrate strong safety and health management systems that differ from VPP requirements. This provides OSHA the opportunity to see other systems in action and evaluate different safety approaches.
The Voluntary Protection Program reduces inspections but does not limit OSHA enforcement when it comes to regulations should there be complaints, fatalities, or other significant incidents. However, VPP has demonstrated it provides improved safety conditions, along with many other employer benefits.
What are the Benefits to Employers?
Recognition as a Star, Merit, or Demonstration VPP-certified company has many benefits for employers, including:
- Fewer inspections. VPP participants can spend their time on improving their safety systems and programs, since their certification means they require fewer visits from OSHA.
- Increased reputation. VPP-certified companies provide reputational status as a safe place to work and a safe partner to work with. This can lead to higher-quality job applicants and open more opportunities for work.
- High morale: VPP certification shows employees the company values their safety. Employees are motivated to maintain that environment, self-regulate, more readily engage in improvement initiatives, and take pride in their work.
- Reduced Costs: Strong health and safety programs are proven to reduce injury and illness rates, leading to savings for employers.
- Networking: VPP participants have opportunities to network with other VPP-certified employers, share innovative solutions, discuss best practices, and continuously improve their respective programs.
With fewer inspections, reduced costs, and increased industry reputation, achieving VPP status offers employers a way to increase their business profile, develop a strong workforce, and attain a healthy return on their safety investments.
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6 Steps to Becoming Compliant with OSHA VPP
When you’re ready to begin the Voluntary Protection Program compliance process, OSHA outlines the following steps:
- Contact your nearest OSHA office and express interest in participating in the VPP.
- Assess your own workplace safety and health programs to determine if you meet the current criteria for VPP certification. If you don’t meet the criteria, you can speak to an independent safety consultant who can help you meet your goal of achieving compliance.
- Submit your application, demonstrating your safety management systems and programs go beyond OSHA regulations and are effective at preventing injury and illness.
- Undergo the on-site evaluation if your application is accepted. OSHA verifies the information you submitted with your application before determining if you meet the VPP criteria or require improvements.
- Approval for your VPP designation occurs when the OSHA evaluators determine you meet the criteria for one of the three program designations.
- Ongoing participation and continuous improvement are required to maintain your VPP status. Regular evaluations will be performed by OSHA to confirm you remain qualified for the program.
Becoming VPP-certified requires employers to create a culture of safety that starts at the top and empowers employees to drive improvements in the systems. A company with a culture of safety is a positive feedback loop of continuous improvement when it has strong leadership and worker participation.
Gain Credibility and Reduce Inspections with the Help of a Safety Consultant
The Voluntary Protection Program is well worth the investment, but it can also be a lengthy process. Hiring a safety consultant can speed up the steps and bring you into VPP compliance by helping with:
- Safety management assessments. Your safety consultant can identify areas for improvement in your current programs and practices.
- Specific VPP guidance. Your consultant can prepare you for OSHA’s expectations in each area of VPP compliance and auditing.
- Developing and implementing your safety programs. Your safety consultant can help you correct deficiencies in your current programs and develop stronger ones that meet the VPP criteria of exceeding OSHA regulations.
- Applying to OSHA for VPP certification. Your safety consultant can ensure an accurate application that will match your onsite audit, meeting OSHA expectations for compliance.
- Supporting your onsite evaluation. Your safety consultant works as a team member and can help answer questions about the strength and effectiveness of your safety programs during the onsite evaluation.
A SafetyPro consultant can help you through the steps to VPP compliance and recognition as a participant in one of OSHA’s VPP designations. The process of building a strong safety culture improves all areas of business, and your VPP certification shows you are an industry leader, desirable employer, and trusted partner.