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EHS voluntary compliance prevents injuries and saves money

Sara Chamberlain March 21, 2019

When environmental, health and safety industry professionals and organizations work to develop best practices and voluntarily comply with those practices, everyone reaps the benefits.

For 35 years, the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) has been bringing these interests together to build cultures of occupational, environmental and workplace safety compliance while enhancing business outcomes. The Chairperson of the Board of the VPPPA, J.A. Rodriguez, Jr., recently discussed the benefits of voluntary compliance in the field of occupational health and safety with the Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Leaders’ Network, a group of leading environmental, health and safety professionals from companies and institutions from across the Midwest.

The VPPPA facilitates cooperative partnerships that enhance environmental health and safety systems among its members, which include companies spanning over 50 industries, state and federal agencies such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and members of Congress.

Companies that implement VPPPA programs have demonstrably lower workplace injury rates than averages tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Participants routinely achieve injury rates from 50% to 70% below their industry’s average. Considering that workplace injuries cost companies an average of $39,000 per occurrence according to the National Safety Council, the cost reductions associated with voluntary compliance add up quickly, not to mention the benefits to company morale and productivity.

Mr. Rodriguez explained that excellent workplace injury results are earned through an exhaustive review, integration, and streamlining of every aspect of a company’s safety management system. Employees and management alike must participate in and approve implementation of the program. If a union is present, its approval is also required. At an appropriate stage in the process, the company invites OSHA personnel for onsite evaluations and additional cooperative support. This intensive approach yields concrete and sometimes fundamental changes to the company’s safety management system. As Mr. Rodriguez stated, a safety management professional visiting a VPPPA member’s facility can often tell almost immediately that the facility exhibits the highest standards of workplace safety.

The U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta recently expressed his support for voluntary compliance efforts at the VPPPA’s August 2018 Safety+ Symposium in Nashville, noting that the balance between enforcement and compliance assistance efforts is a central feature of effective workplace safety regulation. As a result, clients, employees, and contractors can realize tangible benefits from instituting a recognized voluntary compliance program at their facilities.

If you have questions about compliance assistance programs in the environmental health and safety field, please contact Sara Chamberlain in Thompson Coburn’s environmental practice area.