The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) represents one component of OSHA's effort to extend worker protection beyond the minimum required by OSHA standards. This program, along with others such as expanded onsite consultation services and full-service area offices, provide cooperative approaches which, when coupled with an effective enforcement program, expand worker protection to help meet the goals of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
The three VPPs — Star, Merit, and Demonstration — are designed to:
Recognize outstanding achievement of those who have successfully incorporated comprehensive safety and health programs into their total management system;
Motivate others to achieve excellent safety and health results in the same outstanding way; and
Establish a relationship between employers, employees and OSHA that is based on cooperation rather than coercion.
The Star Program is the most demanding and the most prestigious. It is open to an employer in any industry who has successfully managed a comprehensive safety and health program to reduce injury rates below the national average for the industry. Specific requirements for the program include: management commitment and employee participation; a high quality worksite analysis program; hazard prevention and control programs; and comprehensive safety and health training for all employees. These requirements must all be in place and operating effectively.
The Merit Program is primarily a stepping stone to Star Program participation. An employer with a basic safety and health program built around the Star requirements who is committed to improving the company's program and who has the resources to do so within a specified period of time may work with OSHA to meet Star qualifications.
The Demonstration Program is for companies that provide Star-quality worker protection in industries where certain Star requirements may not be appropriate or effective. It allows OSHA both the opportunity to recognize outstanding safety and health programs that would otherwise be unreached by the VPP and to determine if general Star requirements can be changed to include these companies as Star participants.
OSHA reviews an employer's VPP application and conducts an on-site review to verify that the safety and health program described is in operation at the site. Evaluations are conducted on a regular basis, annually for Merit and Demonstration programs, and triennially for Star. All participants must send their injury information annually to their OSHA regional office. Sites participating in the VPP are not scheduled for programmed inspections; however, any employee complaints, serious accidents or significant chemical releases that may occur are handled according to routine enforcement procedures.
An employer may make application for any VPP at the nearest OSHA regional office. Once OSHA is satisfied that, on paper, the employer qualifies for the program, an onsite visit is scheduled. The review team presents its findings in a written report for the company's review prior to submission to the Assistant Secretary of Labor who heads OSHA. If approved, the employer receives a letter from the Assistant Secretary informing the site of its participation in the VPP. A certificate of approval and flag are presented at a ceremony held at or near the approved worksite. Star sites receiving reapproval after each triennial evaluation receive plaques at similar ceremonies.
The VPPs as described are available in states under federal jurisdiction. Some 18(b) state plan states have similar programs. Interested companies in 18(b) states should contact the appropriate state designee for information.
Additional information on the VPP is available from OSHA national, regional, and area offices.