Lawmakers in yesterday’s U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee hearing on Voluntary Protection Programs (VPPs) are misguided if they think that voluntary enforcement of workplace safety is enough to keep employees safe from harm, according to advocacy group Public Citizen.
The group claims that VPPs – which allow employers to be exempt from OSHA inspections – are unproven, and that letting industries regulate themselves is a bad idea.
The committee has said that “by encouraging employers to go beyond federal safety requirements and proactively promote the health and safety of their workers, VPP participants report fewer days away or restricted from work due to an injury or illness.”
“While Public Citizen applauds the willingness of some employers to step up and go above and beyond the language of the required federal statue to protect their employees, scheduled OSHA inspections remain necessary,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “By removing scheduled OSHA inspections from the workplace, employers are left with fewer choices if unsafe situations occur.”
After an employer applies to OSHA to qualify to be in a VPP, OSHA performs a rigorous inspection and then decides. A VPP designation is good for three to five years.
“With the ever-changing workplace, workers in the U.S. should not have to wait as long as five years to have potential hazards mitigated,” said Lisa Gilbert, acting director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The use of enforcement mechanisms and inspections is absolutely necessary to deter employers who may neglect workplace safety and health.”
“It’s great when employers go above and beyond, but we shouldn’t remove worker protections from employees who unfortunately are not in that situation,” Wrightson said. “The House Education and Workforce Committee should consider the need for federal oversight before moving to promote safe workplaces through voluntary programs alone.”
About Public Citizen
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.citizen.org.