Federal agencies Voluntary Protection Programs Fines/penalties

Perez: VPP and SHARP are important

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Washington – Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez voiced his support for OSHA cooperative programs, as well as the need to increase the agency’s penalty limits, during a March 18 House hearing on the Department of Labor’s budget request for fiscal year 2016.

Perez fielded questions on a variety of workplace safety topics during the hearing, which was convened by the Education and the Workforce Committee.

In response to an allegation from committee member Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) that OSHA administrator David Michaels has suggested eliminating the Voluntary Protection Programs, Perez said no such statement has ever been made, that both he and Michaels view VPP as important, and DOL has plans to expand the program next year.

Walberg also questioned Perez about recent changes limiting membership in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, which is aimed at small employers. Small subsidiaries of larger employers are now directed to VPP membership, a move the secretary said was done to manage agency resources, not limit participation.

Perez also stressed the need to increase the maximum penalty OSHA can issue, noting that fines for polluting rivers and killing fish are larger than fines for killing a worker on the job. “We don’t pack enough punch,” he said.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), ranking member of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, announced during the hearing that she will reintroduce the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which, among other measures, will increase OSHA penalties.