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OSHA self-policing safety program under fire in recent report

It’s not exactly news when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is under fire for some alleged regulatory-related deficiency. A recent case in point concerns its Voluntary Protection Program.

The VPP was established under the Reagan presidency in the 1980s with a two-fold aim of improving management of OSHA’s limited resources and recognizing companies that set themselves apart through salutary safety programs.

As a reward for their comparatively safe working environments, companies in Ohio and nationally are safeguarded a bit from the scrutiny that OSHA customarily fixes on businesses with higher rates of on-the-job injuries and accidents.

According to a recent government report, that hasn’t exactly been a good idea.

In fact, notes a study authored by the inspector general for the United States Department of Labor, material flaws exist in the VPP that have resulted in comparatively dangerous companies being shielded from necessary review.

The IG report states that 13 percent of VPP participants either exceed their industry’s averages for injuries and illnesses or have been cited for violations. Additionally, the report points to a clear laxity in OSHA’s oversight of the program, with some problem participants receiving the special treatment afforded by the VPP for as much as six years, despite having obvious problems.

Agency inefficiency and duplicative effort was also a target of the study, which noted that OSHA “tracked VPP data in at least 11 different databases that were not reconciled.”

Although he concedes that the VPP has problems, agency chief David Michaels generally stands by its performance, stating that OSHA “has significantly improved its management of the program” in recent years.

That comment is obviously at odds with what the IG study concludes.

Source: Huffington Post, "Safety program that lets companies police themselves has serious problems, audit finds," Dave Jamieson, Dec. 18, 2013

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