ASSE Supports Congressional Efforts to Protect OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program for Businesses From Being Cut
Des Plaines, IL (May 20, 2010) — American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) support Congressional efforts to restore funding to the budget for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), a program the Administration proposed to cut. ASSE supports restoring VPP’s funding and, while urging amendments to assure appropriately competent persons are involved and third party safety and health audits are included, new legislation that would set VPP into law and expand the program to small businesses.
In his letter to Senator Michael B. Enzi, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, stated, “I commend you for the recent steps you have taken to support OSHA’s VPP. Many of our members are leaders and participants in their employers’ commitment to VPP. From that direct experience, they know the value VPP brings in helping them make sure their employers remain committed to safe and healthy workplaces at levels far above mere compliance with OSHA standards.
“As the current Administration increases OSHA’s capacity in enforcement, the value that cooperative programs in reaching out to employers willingly committed to safety cannot be overlooked,” Patton continued. “Possible gains in convincing new employers about the value of safe and healthy workplaces cannot be undercut by allowing OSHA to end its commitment to programs that are already working for other employers.”
ASSE supports both an amendment to the Senate budget resolution sponsored by Sen. Enzi that would restore OSHA’s VPP funding to Fiscal Year 2010 levels and SB 3257, Sen. Enzi’s bill to set into law VPP and expand the program to include more small businesses. Patton notes the bill will help ensure that VPP avoids becoming a point of contention when priorities for OSHA change from one Administration to the next.
“It will also help that employers and our members will be able to rely on the program now and in the future,” Patton noted.
ASSE also requested including two amendments to SB 3257 aimed at strengthening the measure.
“The first amendment we urge you to consider addresses an issue the Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA’s general approach to standards and programs fails to address. Nowhere in the Act and among OSHA’s numerous standards and programs do provisions exist that address specifically the competency of persons who undertake an employer’s effort to meet OSHA standards and other requirements,” Patton wrote.
ASSE urged an amendment that would require a company’s VPP efforts involve an “appropriately competent person” — a person who, “through experience or training, is able to identify actual and potential hazards, understand safe work practices, and has demonstrated expertise in establishing and managing a safety and health program has demonstrated expertise in establishing and managing an occupational safety and health program.
“Even the best OSHA standard or program cannot fulfil OSHA’s overall mission if an employer’s safety and health commitment is not carried out by persons trained to understand the risks involved and how to manage them,” Patton wrote.
ASSE also requested the bill consider requiring OSHA to expand its capabilities through qualified third party safety and health auditors.
“ASSE believes that VPP can and should be expanded even over current levels through the use of appropriately competent persons as third party auditors of an employer’s commitments to the VPP program,” Patton noted.
ASSE suggested the following amendment language be considered: Develop through negotiated rulemaking a third part audit system that will allow employers to meet the monitoring requirements under the program by engaging appropriately competent persons who, through existing accredited occupational safety and health professional certifications, can demonstrate their professional competence and independence.
Patton concluded his letter by saying, “ASSE members value VPP as a means to help ensure their employers commitment to safety. They know it works and welcome whatever accountability is needed to assure the program is a valuable investment of OSHA’s scarce resources.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It has more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members located worldwide. For more information and a full copy of the letter please go to www.asse.org .