US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Bill to Make OSHA’s Successful Voluntary Protection Program Permanent Introduced in Senate and House

Wednesday, April 13, 2011Joe Brenckle (Enzi) 202-224-2465

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined today with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, to introduce legislation to make one of the most successful workplace health and safety programs for both public and private employers permanent.  Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Tom Petri (R-Wisc.), senior Republican on the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, and Representative Gene Green (D-Texas).  The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Act (S.807 and H.R. 1511) would codify a successful program operated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to encourage workplaces to incorporate voluntary programs to improve the health and safety of their worksites.  Since VPP was created in 1982, it has grown to incorporate more than 2500 worksites that cover approximately one million employees. A 2007 report noted that federal VPP worksites saved the government more than $59 million by avoiding injuries, and that private sector VPP participants saved more than $300 million. Participating workplaces have an illness and injury rate that average 50 percent below that of their industry.

“The Voluntary Protection Programs have encouraged a culture of health and safety in the workplace that saved the government and private sector millions of dollars by avoiding injuries and illness,” said Senator Enzi. “And in this economy every little bit helps.  As a former small business owner myself, I understand that maintaining a safe workplace is just as important as turning a profit.  This bipartisan bill would ensure that these successful programs continue while helping expand the program to include more of America’s small businesses. I hope my colleagues will support this crucial legislation because preserving these programs that make worksites safer is something both parties should agree on.”

“The number one responsibility of any employer is providing a safe workplace for its employees,” Senator Landrieu said.  “The VPP is a great example of how the right public-private partnership can succeed in reducing accidents at work, but these partnerships are not a replacement for stricter mandatory workplace safety guidelines, especially in dangerous occupations.  While we can never guarantee complete safety in any workplace, reducing accidents saves lives, increases productivity and saves money for businesses, workers and taxpayers.” 

“We need a more effective relationship between OSHA and employers, and I think the Voluntary Protection Plan helps,” said Representative Petri.  “Yes, there are times when OSHA has to be heavy handed, but most employers want to run safe workplaces.  There is a lot to be gained by having OSHA recognize employers who have demonstrated a commitment to workplace safety.  When OSHA does that, it creates an incentive for other employers to follow suit - and that improves safety and saves money on enforcement costs at the same time.”

“The Voluntary Protection Program is one of the few programs that has achieved unified support from both union and non-unionized labor, small and large businesses, and government,” said Representative Gene Green.  “I am proud to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to codify this important safety program that saves money while protecting workers. In Texas alone, 327 worksites participate in this program that employ, in total, over 50,000 workers.”

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