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June 13, 2013
New policy addresses fatalities at OSHA VPP sites

OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels has issued a directive that changes the rules governing what happens when a fatality or catastrophic incident occurs at a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) worksite.

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The new policy states that, if the fatality triggers an enforcement inspection, the status of the VPP site will be changed to “Inactive Pending Fatality/Catastrophe Inspection.” Within 10 days of the start of an inspection, the region will inform the VPP participant of the change in status and ask that they not display the VPP flag.

The site will be terminated from the VPP if the fatality is determined to be work-related, if a willful violation is issued, or if a site is placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Also, upon learning of a fatality, the relevant OSHA region must provide Michaels’ office and other departments with information including details about the incident and the last time the site was evaluated and approved for VPP status.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and PBS found that since 2001, at least 80 workers have died at VPP sites that remained in the program. A 2009 review of the VPP by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said OSHA lacked a policy requiring documentation in VPP files regarding follow-up actions in response to fatalities and serious injuries at VPP sites.

OSHA describes a catastrophic incident as one that results in overnight hospitalization of three or more workers.

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