A new lineup of program initiatives will greatly expand the benefits of the Voluntary Protection Program, according to Assistant Secretary of Labor John L. Henshaw.

Speaking to attendees of the Voluntary Protection Programs Participant's Association (VPPPA) conference earlier this week at the association's 19th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Henshaw said: "Expanding VPP allows us to reach out to more employers across the country, wherever they are on the ladder of safety and health excellence. These new initiatives will add to our existing portfolio of VPP programs, greatly multiply program participation, and markedly improve workplace safety and health across this country."

VPP Challenge will assist companies committed to excellence but need assistance in developing effective safety and health management systems. It will be geared toward increasing small business participation in VPP. Employers will be given incentives, including recognition, for incremental improvements in their management systems.

VPP Corporate will streamline the application review and onsite evaluation processes for corporations that have made a commitment to VPP. The initiative will focus on eliminating redundancy in the application requirements for sites from the same corporation and will require participating corporations to provide mentoring and outreach to other corporations.

The VPP Construction initiative, slated to launch next year, will aim to provide the mobile construction workforce and short-term projects with the same opportunity for recognition that fixed-site employers receive.

The three new VPP initiatives will not affect OSHA's current VPP program, including the STAR and Merit levels of recognition.