2,400 U.S. Companies Allowed to Avoid Government Safety Inspections
Friday, July 13, 2012
A government program that allows businesses to implement “voluntary protection” for its workers has resulted in missed inspections, numerous industrial accidents and at least 80 deaths.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) was set up for businesses and federal agencies with good safety records. VPP allows participants to avoid federal inspectors visiting their sites, even at chemical plants, shipyards and sawmills. They can avoid revaluation for the program for up to five years.
While VPP companies have skipped inspections, at least 80 workers have died at these sites since 2000, according to an investigation by The Center for Public Integrity. In addition, investigators found serious safety violations at least 47 of these locales.
“Workers at plants billed as the nation’s safest have died in preventable explosions, chemical releases and crane accidents. They have been pulled into machinery or asphyxiated. Investigators, called in because of deaths, have uncovered underlying safety problems—failure to follow recognized safety practices, inadequate inspections and training, lack of proper protective gear, unguarded machinery, improper handling of hazardous chemicals,” wrote iWatch News.
In many cases, VPP participants found in violation of federal safety laws have gotten off lightly. More specifically, companies that lost workers to fatalities and had at least one safety violation paid an average of only $8,000 in fines. iWatch News noted, “At least seven sites have experienced multiple fatal accidents while in VPP; four remain in the program today. Two companies, International Paper and Georgia-Pacific—among the largest corporate participants in the program—have four sites each where workers have died since 2000.”
To Learn More:
'Model Workplaces' Not Always So Safe (by Chris Hamby, iWatch News)
When Safety Becomes Voluntary: Workplace Self-Policing Program Under Scrutiny (by Michelle Chen, In These Times)
VPP Sites by Industry (U.S. Department of Labor)
Toxic Exposures Up; Health Inspections Down (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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