World-class leaders in Safety through Voluntary Protection Programs

  • Published
  • By Dan Gamboa and Ty Norton
  • Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Safety Office
Voluntary Protection Programs are cooperative compliance programs initiated by Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1982 to encourage companies to exceed minimum federal safety requirements by emphasizing the importance of excellence in occupational safety and health programs.
   Since first taking root in the California, VPP has saved industry more than $1 billion dollars by reducing on-the-job injury and illness incidents.
   In fact, VPP has been so successful, in 2006 the U.S. Air Force decided to roll it out by selecting Tinker Air Force Base as one of the first nine bases to lead the initiative.
   VPP is a concept that recognizes the enforcement of safety regulations alone can never fully achieve the OSHA objective to provide for a safe and healthful workplace.
   VPP is not just another program -- it's a process that helps participants accomplish work more safely. VPP serves as a road-map leading participants through four key areas necessary to have effective safety-and health programs:
   · Union/Management Leadership and Employee Involvement
   · Worksite Analysis
   · Hazard Prevention and Control
   · Safety and Health Training
   VPP sites integrate these elements into their safety and health management systems through a partnership in which management, unions and employees work together with OSHA to implement strong safety and health programs.
   There are a couple of things all Air Force employees should know about VPP: It isn't inspection results or award designations that make VPP special. What makes VPP special is that you, all Airmen, will form a direct partnership with OSHA and industry peers to make lasting improvements to your personal safety and health environment. It's those lasting improvements that make the program special.
   The second thing that makes VPP special is that it causes employers and employees to accept nothing less than continuous improvement in all they do -- and once they attain that "mind-set" of constantly striving for excellence, there is little they cannot accomplish together.
   Companies that achieve VPP status in the United States are among the best safety and health performers in the world and that status is something that companies achieve largely on their own, with little assistance from OSHA. Instead, assistance comes from companies that have already achieved VPP status and from members of the Voluntary Protection Program Participants Association.
   Using the VPP process as a tool to become a world-class leader in safety and health is the first step to creating a stronger safety culture. Air Force Instructions and other safety documentation has always provided for a solid, consistent safety program. But it is employee involvement that is the vital tool.
   While safety and health has always been about taking care of people, VPP further enables employees to take ownership and exhibit pride in their individual safety and health by strengthening their involvement in the program.
   As the Air Force transitions into the 21st century, safety's primary goal is to exceed the warfighter expectation through an injury-free environment. Acceptance into VPP will help the Air Force reach that goal.