DOL Inspector General Opens Inquiry Into OSHA Voluntary Protection Program

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By Bruce Rolfsen  

The Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General is looking at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program to determine if its criteria are clearly defined and applied consistently, according to the inspector general's audit workplan for 2012.

“The [VPP] audit was identified by our annual planning process,” a spokesman for the inspector general's office told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 7.

In addition, the OIG is continuing its inquiry into the agency's site-specific targeting program.

According to the OIG workplan, key questions the audit seeks to answer are whether the VPP performance-based criteria are clearly defined and applied consistently to all applicant worksites, and whether the participants are reevaluated consistently by the OSHA regions.

Employers participating in VPP are not subject to most OSHA programmed inspections because it is presumed that their safety and health programs exceed OSHA requirements and that they have lower-than-average injury and illness rates. About 2,420 facilities participate.

“Incorrect VPP approvals, during preliminary evaluation or a reevaluation could leave workers vulnerable,” the workplan said.

The Voluntary Protection Program is already undergoing internal OSHA review and was the subject of Government Accountability Office report in 2009 (39 OSHR 699, 8/20/09; 41 OSHR 762, 9/8/11).

The audit will consider OSHA's review and GAO reports.

“We will look at what OSHA is doing and any past work by GAO as part of planning for the audit,” the spokesman said.

More Audit Releases

Other inspector general audits of OSHA programs are anticipated this year as well.

Expected for release in the “next few months,” according to the spokesman, are reviews of OSHA's site-specific targeting program and management accountability program.

Site-specific targeting is used to determine which high-hazard, general industry employers could be subject to programmed OSHA inspections (41 OSHR 790, 9/15/11).

Under OSHA's management accountability program, the agency's Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis, or a region or area office, audits programs and activities at least every four years. The accountability requirements were updated in 2010 (40 OSHR 816, 9/30/10).

The OIG also expects to release by October an audit of how OSHA spent $13.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. OSHA had promised to spend the money to hire the equivalent of 76 full-time inspectors whose focus would be projects funded by stimulus dollars.

In coming months, the inspector general will also release an audit of the Bureau of Labor Statistics's technical assistance and training program. The program trains private-sector employers and state agencies how to collect data for the agency.

For More Information

The Audit Workplan is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8r9u9p.

The GAO report is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8r9uat.