Contractors Federal agencies Voluntary Protection Programs

VPP and contract workers: Inspector General audit of program calls for improvements

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Washington – OSHA has stated that it will change some of the processes in its Voluntary Protection Programs, after a Department of Labor Office of Inspector General audit uncovered several weaknesses in recording and reporting systems involving contract workers.

A February 2014 hotline complaint to DOL OIG alleged that “a contract-worker fatality occurred at a VPP worksite and regional program officials did not take appropriate follow-up actions in response,” according to an OIG report, released Sept. 11.

In response to the complaint, OIG conducted a performance audit of VPP, following up on 23 contract-worker catastrophes or fatalities reported by VPP participants between July 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2016, and added 75 randomly selected VPP participants (with 212 contract workers) in Region III to investigate for system failures. OIG concluded that the 2014 complaint had no merit, but both the follow-up and audit revealed several failures:

  • OSHA does not require, by regulation, complete information on contract workers.
  • Systems for recording information are inefficient.
  • Each of the first two issues led to OSHA being 1) unsure if all incidents were reported, and 2) unable to properly evaluate VPP participants and determine whether they should remain in the program.

OIG recommends the establishment of a system to collect and disseminate VPP contractor information, controls to ensure the information is complete, and an expansion of the collection of contractor information to all VPP participants.

In an Aug. 31 response to the OIG report, Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, said that OSHA “recognizes that the current procedures can be strengthened and is committed to implementing enhanced processes and technology improvements to better enable the agency to identify and track enforcement activities, including contract-worker fatalities, at VPP sites.” Sweatt added that the improvements will lead to “a more systematic and comprehensive approach to determining whether a participant should be allowed to remain in VPP following enforcement activity.”

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