Said OSHA deputy Jordan Barab at a speech last month: “Specifically, by scaling back our spending on the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) and Alliances, OSHA will redirect compliance safety and health officer time previously spent on these compliance-assistance activities to inspections.

”Without a doubt, the VPP makes a valuable contribution to workplace safety. Participating companies go above and beyond OSHA requirements, including many with workplace safety and health programs that should serve as a model for the rest of American companies.

”However, given the choice of spending our limited resources on either supporting companies that are doing a great job protecting employees, or focusing on employers who willfully disregard workplace safety and allow workers to die in situations that could easily have been prevented - our choice is clear.

”Let me be clear. We are not giving up on VPP. In fact, Secretary Solis and Dr. Michaels have committed to look for and implement alterative forms of non-federal funding to maintain and grow VPP into the future.”

Aaron Trippler, the government affairs director for the American Industrial Hygiene Association, rewrote to member: “As for the VPP program, it is obvious the agency is still coming to grips with how it wants to proceed with this program. Those concerned about the program should know the agency has no intention of shutting the program down but ‘changes are a coming’.

“Labor Secretary Solis and others have even discussed two ways to make the program pay for itself. One would charge employers a fee to participate in the program and the other would require employers to hire a third party to provide the inspection for employers to participate in the program. Obviously these are going to be very controversial ideas so get ready for some serious discussion on this program. “