Highlights of a VPP Program

Do you have an effective safety and health program? Are your injury/illness and days away/restricted work activities rates lower than the average for your industry? Do managers and employees work together to prevent accidents and eliminate hazards? Would you like to develop a more cooperative relationship with WISHA?

If so, your company may be a candidate for one of WISHA's Voluntary Protection Programs -- Star or Merit. Designed to augment WISHA's enforcement efforts, these programs encourage and recognize excellence in occupational safety and health. Only those companies which demonstrate commitment to workplace safety and health beyond the requirements of the WISHA standards -- especially at senior management levels -- are eligible. Participation exempts a worksite from WISHA's programmed inspections.


An effective, ongoing safety and health program. A strong safety and health program exemplifies commitment to the prevention of occupational illness and injury beyond satisfying the requirements of WISHA standards. It is the central element which qualifies a company for participation in the Voluntary Protection Programs. Companies participating in Merit and Star are expected to have comprehensive programs including elements such as employee participation and annual comprehensive self-evaluation. WISHA assesses the effectiveness of the program through a number of measures including onsite review.

Cooperation. A cooperative atmosphere is essential to make voluntary protection work. Companies are required to use a labor-management approach which includes joint labor safety and health committees. Companies must demonstrate that the collective bargaining agent(s) representing their employees, if any, has (have) support the company's participation. It is important under all Voluntary Protection Programs that both employers and employees recognize that they retain their rights and responsibilities under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA).

Good performance. Although performance levels required vary with individual Voluntary Protection Program, the company must demonstrate that its efforts are working to minimize injury and illness in the workplace. Two indicators are the Bureau of Labor Statistics injury/illness recordable incidence and days away/restricted work activity incidence rates or if public sector your experience factor on your workers' compensation rate. Also, the company must have demonstrated good faith in any previous dealings with WISHA.


Open to any industry public sector, or Contractor on a VPP site.  Star is targeted for a company with comprehensive, successful safety and health programs. Companies that are in the forefront of employee protection as indicated by three-year average injury/illness recordable incidence and days away/restricted work activity incidence rates below the national average for their industry, or if a public sector company has an experience factor on your workers' compensation rate below the state average for your risk class, may participate. They must also meet requirements for extensive management systems with strong employee participation in their programs. Star participants are evaluated every three years, although their incident rates and the companies self assessment of their safety and health programs are reviewed annually.


Merit is an effective stepping stone to Star. Merit sites may have more general management systems but must set goals for meeting Star requirements. Merit applicants must agree to specific goals for enhancing their safety and health program to meet Star requirements. Merit participants are evaluated onsite annually.


Application review. Each applicant undergoes a review of its safety and health programs including an onsite examination of its records and logs, a review of its inspection history, if any, and an assessment of site conditions. WISHA also conducts interviews of management and employees. The onsite portion of the review requires about four days.

Evaluation. Annual evaluations for Merit participation and three-year evaluations for Star participants compare injury/illness rates to industry rates, determine the satisfaction of participants and assure that the companies continue to meet the requirements. In addition, at Merit sites, WISHA measures progress toward Star requirements.

Contact person. WISHA retains responsibility for inspections in response to formal, valid employee complaints, significant chemical leaks and spills, and workplace fatalities and catastrophes.

For applications or further information, write Voluntary Protection Plan, WISHA Services, Department of Labor & Industries, Post Office Box 44649, Olympia, Washington, 98504-4649; telephone (360) 902-5431.


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