2004 is an election year. What happens if a new administration comes in and swings the pendulum away from OSHA's current emphasis on VPP? In an interview December 10, ISHN asked OSHA chief John Henshaw what he would say to a safety and health manager who wants to wait and see before committing to VPP?

"VPP in its availability is politics proof," said Henshaw. "Star and Merit have been around for 20 years, in various administrations and various kinds of climates. Now true, it may not be emphasized as much by other assistant secretaries, but it will still be there, barring anybody killing the entire program. But the success of the VPP over the past 20 years is immense, and no one in their right mind is going to want to kill VPP."

Another hallmark of Henshaw's has been making the business case for safety and health. But what would happen if another administrator came in who was not be as interested in OSHA as a cultural force helping to educate businesses about the value of safety and health?

"Yes, another administration may have a different concept, different view, come from a different world. But the career people here who are dedicated are the ones who are going to keep things going," said Henshaw.

"Regardless of who's in OSHA and regardless of what the flavor of the month might be in the agency, at least politically in this office, (workplace) safety and health professionals are what drive overall performance. If this movement of selling the value of safety and health continues — and it does add value — they're going to continue doing that just like the career people are going to do it.

"The assistant secretaries may say whatever they want, but if others know (making the business case) produces value and results, they'll keep doing it."