Thursday, September 09, 2004

VPP: Counting Reports, Not Bodies

Our European correspondent, Rory O'Neill, of Hazards Magazine, notes that all is not always what it seems when it comes to OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (see below). He reminds me of a piece published just last month about a less-than-honest VPP participant:

How to get fewer accidents? Don’t count them

A subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser, a company that is one of the US government’s flagships for the 'voluntary protection programmes (VPP)' introduced as a business-friendly alternative to official safety enforcement, has been found to have fiddled its accident reports. The Buckhannon plant of Weyerhaeuser owned Trus Joist has now been forced to withdraw its VPP application to safety watchdog OSHA as it has been hit with enforcement action for recordkeeping violations. After receiving a complaint, OSHA discover that over a two year period 38 cases of injuries and ill-health required to be logged by law had gone unrecorded. According to OSHA's website, Weyerhaeuser has nine sites with safety and health programmes already operating VPP systems - where a low accident rate is a condition of entry. Once accepted for VPP, companies are exempt from programmed inspections. In a bid to increase the number of companies eligible for this inspection opt-out, OSHA recently relaxed the recorded injury and illness rate requirements for VPP applicants.