OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187
August 31, 2004
The Honorable John Henshaw
Assistant Secretary for Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
OSHA Docket Office – Docket No. C-06
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW.
Washington, DC 20210.
RE: Proposed Voluntary Protection Program for Construction
Dear Assistant Secretary Henshaw:
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), on behalf of its 30,000 member safety, health and environmental (SH+E) professionals, offers the following comments in strong support of the Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration's proposal to advance the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) to the construction industry.
Among its thirteen practice specialties, ASSE's Construction Practice Specialty members are among the most active leaders in managing safety and health concerns in virtually every area and phase of construction. They work with the largest companies and the smallest contractors, on public and private projects, as employed safety and health practitioners, and as consultants.
ASSE and these members strongly support OSHA's role in setting appropriate occupational safety and health standards in construction as well as an OSHA committed to holding employers to those standards through effective enforcement. As a means of encouraging
commitment to safety and health that exceeds those standards, ASSE also supports OSHA's efforts to establish effective and accountable cooperative mechanisms that encourage and reward employers' demonstrated commitment to occupational safety and health. Such cooperative efforts mirror the work our members do every day in helping employers address safety and health risks. Most employers know that effective management of those risks helps them achieve a
competitive position in the marketplace. Therefore, OSHA's proposal to establish a Voluntary Protection Program for Construction (VPPC) provides a long needed opportunity for construction companies to step forward and demonstrate their commitment to their employees' safety and health. The plan proposed by OSHA in the August 31, 2004, Federal Register (69 Fed. Reg. at 53299, et seq.) has every chance of succeeding.
The only general concern expressed by our members is that the program does not go far enough in taking into account the reality that the construction industry relies greatly on small companies that work at jobs for short lengths of time. Whether through this proposal or the establishment in the future of still another more specifically targeted VPPC program, it is important that small employers and those employers who work short periods of time at construction sites be encouraged to achieve excellence in their management of employee safety and health.
In our members' view, small and, in many cases, even medium-sized construction companies and contractors will not have an opportunity to participate in VPPC. Many such companies will view the requirements as complex and involved and necessitating the hiring of a full time safety professional. The hiring of a full-time safety professional should be encouraged on large construction projects. To encourage medium and small-sized companies to participate in this program, ASSE urges that language be added to inform companies that construction safety consultants who can help meet these requirements are readily available through ASSE's Construction and Consultants Practice Specialties, other associations like t he Associated General Contractors of America and companies' insurance carriers.
Our members have also expressed concern over the length of time required for participation under this program. For example, a member who works for a company he believes could meet the requirements proposed here works projects that usually last between 3 months and a year. It would be a shame to restrict a company with a good safety and health management system strictly because they did not meet the relatively long-term site requirement. Encouraging these companies' commitment to the safety and health of their employees is important to the industry as a whole.
Related to this issue is the view of our members that they do not believe the program's application to jobs that are mostly subcontractor-performed is generally explained well enough in the proposal. Specific criteria are needed for general contractors to be able to understand the contractor requirements and mentoring opportunities for subcontractors.
Our members are enthused about this opportunity. They already indicate a strong interest for their own companies to achieve VPP status through this program as soon as possible. As one member commented to us, "This has been needed for a long time." Again in their view, construction companies get a "bad rap" because of the industry's overall statistics. They know there are good companies that should have a means to be recognized for their success in occupational safety and health. VPPC is a way of giving them the recognition they deserve. It may also be a way for some of the companies that need improvement to develop a plan or vision to move forward and become better. Given the hazardous nature of the construction business and past difficulties in construction, this program could be the key component of improving safety conditions in construction throughout the nation.
ASSE appreciates this opportunity to comment on the VPPC proposal and, as always, stands ready to involve our members in helping ensure this cooperative effort's success.
Gene Barfield, CSP
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