The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers the nation's premier safety and health recognition program. Created in 1982, OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize and partner with worksites that show excellence in safety and health. VPP Sites are committed to effective employee protection beyond the minimum requirements of OSHA standards. VPP participants develop and implement systems to effectively identify, evaluate, prevent, and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injury and illness. All types of workplaces, including federal agencies, are eligible to join the VPP.
Participation in the VPP does not eliminate the rights or responsibilities of employers or employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA enforcement inspections will result from formal complaints, workplace accidents or fatalities, chemical leaks and spills, and other significant events. However, to demonstrate the cooperative nature of the VPP, OSHA removes VPP participants from programmed inspection lists, and does not issue citations for standards violations observed during the scheduled on-site evaluations that are promptly corrected.
There are three general requirements for participation in the VPP:
An effective, ongoing safety and health process
A comprehensive and effective safety and health process, involving all levels of employees, is the best way to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. VPP worksites are expected to develop and implement a safety and health process that address the hazards present in the workplace, and in some cases exceed the minimum requirements spelled out in the OSHA standards.
VPP emphasizes cooperation and trust between the three key players in worksite safety and health: management, labor, and OSHA. The high level of cooperation found at VPP worksites complements OSHA's regulatory efforts.
The safety and health management system is evaluated to ensure all applicable standards are addressed. Performance, in terms of occupational injury and illness rates, are also evaluated. VPP Star worksites must have injury rates that are below the national average for their particular industry classification. Merit worksites must be able to reduce their injury and illness rates within 3 years.
Good performance does not stop once the VPP on-site evaluation team has completed their review - continuous improvement is expected.
There are three levels of recognition within the VPP: Merit, Star, and Star Demonstration.
Merit recognizes a good worksite safety and health process, but one that does not meet the level required for the highest level of participation for some of the elements. Merit worksite's safety and health management systems need some improvement to be judged excellent. Merit worksites demonstrate the potential and commitment to meet specific safety and health goals necessary to achieve Star quality within three years. Merit is a designation that can also be assigned to those worksites that may have an excellent system in place but whose incident rates are slightly higher than the specific industry rates.