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On Safety: OSHA’s SHARP and VPP

OSHA's SHARP and VPP logos

Consider VPP

VPP recognizes both employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies (no size requirements) who have implemented effective safety and health management systems as well as maintained injury and illness rates below Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. To participate, employers must apply to OSHA and undergo onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit. VPP participants will be reevaluated every three to five years to remain in the programs. They’re exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

Key elements a worksite must demonstrate to become a VPP member include:

  • Maintain injury and illness rates below those identified by BLS for their corresponding industry
  • Operate a comprehensive safety and health management system that addresses the following elements:
    • Management leadership
    • Employee involvement
    • Worksite analysis
    • Hazard prevention and control
    • Safety and health training

So, what’s the difference?

SHARP and VPP are excellent programs, but what’s the difference between them? Both require OSHA rates to be below their industry average, onsite visits to examine the site programs and the implementation of SHMS. VPP, however, applies to any employer, regardless of their size; SHARP applies to only small employers. If an organizations achieves either VPP or SHARP status, both programs offer an exemption from OSHA programmed inspections.

States carry out SHARP through the free OSHA On-Site Consultation Program, funded by OSHA through grants to the states. VPP is funded and operated by OSHA. Both programs are overseen by OSHA’s directorate of cooperative and state programs in the agency’s national office. The argument can certainly be made from a funding and resource perspective that both programs are essentially the same and should be combined into a single recognition program. Combining the two programs has the potential benefit of better use of limited resources and budget, and perhaps setting the stage for expansion of members into a single, united exemplary program.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Fairfax (CIH, retired 2017) joined OSHA in January 1978 and retired from the agency in 2013. At OSHA, he was a practicing field industrial hygienist, as well as the deputy director and director of enforcement programs. In 2008, Richard served as acting director of construction and, in 2010, was designated deputy assistant secretary – overseeing all field, enforcement and training operations. From 1993 through 2010, Richard wrote an industrial hygiene column entitled, “OSHA Compliance Issues” for the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. He still serves on the Editorial Review Board. Richard now works part time for NSC-ORC HSE.

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