On July 14, 2009, representatives from the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association, Inc. (VPPPA) met with the Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab to discuss how the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report would affect the future of OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), according to an association press release. Representatives from the VPPPA National Board of Directors, as well as several Union and employer representatives, provided Barab with insight into the benefits that VPP brings to their sites.

Barab, ready to listen to the individual accounts of VPP participation, presented the question, “What exactly are you getting out of VPP?” And the representatives from VPPPA were more than willing to share their knowledge.

“Prior to participating in the program, we had a flavor-of-the-month safety program. Then VPP came along and you saw immediate partnership,” stated Rob Henson, VPPPA Board Member and Process Technician from LyondellBasell in Channelview, Texas. “VPP provided a structure from the bottom up and provided a foundation that labor could stand behind and management needed to live up to. When we gained VPP, we gained thousands of safety and health professionals.”

On behalf of L.L.Bean, Inc., Executive Director R. Davis Layne read prepared comments from a letter addressed to Barab stating, “Our improved statistical results point to the fact that our employees are less likely to go home injured, and our cultural survey data shows that employees are more engaged in our VPP locations than those that have not begun implementation.”

As a result of the recent attention surrounding the programs, Barab stated that he has been getting much feedback on the benefits of VPP. And he contributes much of the internal issues found in the 2009 GAO report to be a result of exponential growth of the program, “the program has grown a lot faster than we could keep track of.”

With the new administration putting much more emphasis and money into the enforcement side of safety and health, OSHA is left to determine the best ways of maintaining and improving the benefits of VPP. VPPPA representatives provided examples of many resources OSHA has within the VPP program, including OSHA’s Special Government Employees (SGE) and the VPPPA Mentoring Program.

The meeting concluded with the message that this was only the beginning of open communication between OSHA and VPPPA members. Barab encourages VPPPA representatives and all safety and health personnel to get more involved in the process, “you all are the best of the best … when we make a proposal, we need you to tell us what works and what doesn’t work.”

Barab is scheduled to speak at the Opening General Session of the 25th Annual National VPPPA Conference this August 24-27, 2009, in San Antonio, Texas. Barab referred to the upcoming conference, stating, “I’m looking forward to coming out and talking to more of your members.”