The largest pep rally in workplace safety is set to go off later this month in Anaheim Calif., when the Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association (VPPPA) holds its 24th annual national conference. More than 3,200 safety and health pros are expected to converge on Anaheim August 25-28. It will be loud, and the Anaheim Convention Center will be rockin’.

Why all the hollering and cheering? This is a meeting unlike any other safety and health confab. It’s oriented around teams, not individuals. Worksites that have earned the right to fly OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program flag are proud of their accomplishment, and many want to reward in-house VPP champions and employee teams by sending them to the national meeting.

The VPPPA conference has averaged about ten percent annual growth in attendance since 2001, according to the VPPPA national office. Based on a VPPPA survey regarding its 2005 conference, much of the growth has come through “word of mouth,” as close to 57 percent of attendees heard about that conference through their supervisor/management or from a colleague.

Sure the meeting attracts corporate speakers and expert consultants from various fields, but the biggest cheers go up when line workers with limited or no public speaking experience take the stage and talk in workshops, sometimes haltingly, always honestly, about their VPP committee best practices, breakthroughs and occasional breakdowns. The support and encouragement they receive from the audience of fellow committee members is loud, loud, loud.

On Tuesday, August 26, you’ll hear hootin’ and hollerin’ as the ten regional VPPPA networking meetings are held simultaneously, with shout-outs from regional officials to companies and individuals who have achieved special success in the past year. These ten regions cover all 50 states.

VPPPA chapters exist in all of the ten OSHA regions. Each chapter is headed by an elected Board of Directors that consists of safety and health leaders — both hourly and salary employees from union and non-union sites. Links to VPPPA chapter Web sites can be found under the Chapter Corner

Who’s going?

VPPPA conference participants represent a wide variety of individuals from VPP sites, sites seeking VPP approval and organizations striving to improve their safety and health management systems.

Note: You do not have to be from a VPP company to attend. Many companies send “scouts” to assess their site’s readiness and prospects for going after VPP status.

The four-day conference includes full days of workshops addressing current safety, health and environmental issues; the VPPPA Expo ’08 with more than 200 vendors; evening receptions and other social activities that provide the perfect opportunity for networking.

The conference concludes at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 28 following the breakfast and closing general session, featuring Daryl “Moose” Johnston, FOX sportscaster and former Dallas Cowboys fullback.

Education credits

Continuing education units for the 24th Annual National VPPPA Conference are granted for the following certifications. Tracking forms will be available at the conference registration desk. 
  • IH CM: 0.5 point per half day or 3.0 points for the entire conference from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene
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  • COC: 1.0 point for the entire conference from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals
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  • CHCM, CHSP, CPSM and CHMM: 1.0 from the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management

Voices from the frontlines

The VPPPA meeting differs from most safety conferences in that the speakers on many of the topics come straight from the front lines — teams and steering committees and project leaders at VPP companies who talk about real-world challenges and solutions. And talk about it with an enthusiasm and passion that can make you feel you’re at a revival meeting.

Today, 1,957 worksites fly the VPP flag. In the U.S. with 8.9 million worksites, the VPP training effort involving 1,857 sites is a minute venture. But you’d never know it attending the conference and listening to the constant buzz of three thousand people committed to safety and health.

How to register

Register online Or call VPPPA national headquarters in Falls Church, VA., at (703) 751-1146;

Diverse learning opportunities

Here’s a taste of some of the workshop topics:
  • Once your site has achieved VPP Star, where do you go from there?
  • The VPP Application Workshop®
  • Mentoring: Teaching Others to Mentor - Trainer the Trainer Workshop
  • Human Performance Fundamentals
  • Changes and Updates to the NFPA 70E
  • Achieving Safety Excellence in DOE-VPP
  • Is Your Safety Team Dying on the Vine?
  • Promoting Home Safety Among Employees: Best Practices and Resources
  • Reinforcing Safety Awareness
  • Performance Minded: Character-Driven Safety Cultures
  • Combating Complacency Through VPP
  • Reducing Injuries Using Leading Indicators and Human Behaviors
  • A Team Approach to Solving Ergonomic Issues
  • Union Safety Representative Program
  • OSHA’s VPP Mobile Workforce Demonstration for Construction
  • Sustaining VPP Performance in Good Times and Bad
  • Laboratory Safety and Hazards
  • Medical Issues and Emergencies-What Would You Do?
  • Principles of Adult Learning: Application for Safety Talks

What is VPP?

Created by OSHA in the early 1980s, the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) is designed to promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

In practice, VPP sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system, invites sites to apply, and then assesses applicants against these criteria. OSHA’s verification includes an application review and a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. The agency approves qualified sites to one of three programs: Star, Merit and Star Demonstration. Sites that make the grade must submit annual self-evaluations and undergo periodic onsite reevaluations to remain in the programs.

For more information on becoming a VPP member, contact OSHA’s Office of Partnerships and Recognition at (202) 693-2213.