Martha Roby: Making sense of workplace safety compliance

Workplace Safety

What if we could help companies comply with workplace safety rules on the front end, rather than impose harmful fines and penalties on the back end?

New legislation that I’m proudly co-sponsoring does just that by helping industries voluntarily and proactively come into compliance with workplace safety guidelines. Known as the Voluntary Protection Program, VPP is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program that has been successful since its creation in 1982. However, it was never authorized into law, making it subject to the whims of the Executive Branch.

H.R. 2500 would finally authorize VPP in the law, making it permanent and allowing Congress to oversee and fund it properly through the appropriations process.

While OSHA is charged with the important task of enforcing our nation’s workplace safety rules, this federal agency too often takes an aggressive, penalization-first approach when more productive options are available.

VPP provides a voluntary, alternative method, with more than 2,200 work sites covering 900,000 employees all focused on proactive safety practices among employees, employers and OSHA. By requiring implementation of comprehensive health and safety protocols, this opt-in program yields fewer injuries and illnesses well below industry averages. What’s more in 2007, a report showed that VPP saved the federal government nearly $300 million, including $59 million by preventing worker injuries.

We all want rules to be followed that ensure a safe workplace. But it makes sense to do so by placing more of an emphasis on practical means to protect workers through partnerships instead of penalties. That’s why VPP is a good move for both workers and businesses.

I am grateful for the bipartisan efforts of my colleague, Rep. Todd Rokita, a Republican of Indiana, and Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat of Texas, who I have joined to introduce this bill. My goal is helping workers and businesses all across Alabama, and the nation, comply with safety rules in a more positive way.

H.R. 2500 has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. I will keep you updated as the bill moves through the legislative process.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is in her third term.


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