OSHA to Re-evaluate Safety Recognition Program

July 16, 2009
Agency responds to federal report concluding several Voluntary Protection Program sites had major violations, including fatalities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded it did not adequately address findings in a 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found OSHA lacked sufficient internal controls to ensure that only qualified worksites participated in its safety recognition program.

"The report noted that OSHA had not fully evaluated the effectiveness of its cooperative programs and was therefore 'limited in its ability to make a sound decision about how best to allocate its resources,'" said OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab in a June 18 statement. "Our evaluation of these programs in the context of OSHA's limited resources will help ensure that OSHA will be able to reprioritize these resources in the most effective manner."

In a new report, GAO notes that it reviewed 30 OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) sites that had fatalities from January 2003 to August 2008 and found that the files for each facility contained no documentation of actions taken by their respective region's VPP staff. "The lack of a policy requiring documentation in VPP files regarding follow-up actions taken in response to incidents, such as fatalities and serious injuries, at VPP sites limits the national office's ability to ensure that its regions have taken the required actions," GAO wrote in the May 20 report.

GAO also interviewed regional officials and reviewed the inspection files for these sites and discovered that some sites had safety and health violations related to fatalities, which includes a facility with seven serious violations. The actions recommended by GAO include reviewing sites' safety and health systems and determining whether they should remain in the program.

OSHA said it will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of its VPP and Alliance programs to determine how the agency should best allocate its resources among cooperative programs, enforcement and the agency's other activities.

VPP participation encompasses more than 2,200 worksites covering more than 800,000 workers.

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