Some of the better known voluntary OHSMS programs in the United States, Australia and Canada are reviewed below.
OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Plan in the United States The Voluntary Protection Plan (VPP) in the United States grew from an experimental program begun in California in 1979, and was formally announced by OSHA in 1982. Its aim is to promote effective worksite-based safety and health, with cooperative relationships between management, labour and OSHA. Workplaces can qualify for one of three programs: Star, Merit, or Star Demonstration (the latter recognizing worksites that address unique safety and health issues). To do so they must have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system, and meet a set of performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system after on- site evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. Both federal and state VPPs exist; the number of organizations holding VPP accreditation has grown from 11 in 1982 to 1189 in 2004. The size of those organizations ranges from fewer than 100 workers (n=246) to more than 4,000 (n=15).
The OSHA website (www.osha.gov/dcsp/vpp) states that the average VPP worksite has a lost workday incidence rate 52 per cent below average for its industry. On the other hand, a report by the United States General Accounting Office (2004) notes that “OSHA’s voluntary compliance programs appear to have yielded many positive outcomes, but the agency does not yet have adequate data to assess their individual and relative effectiveness.”
WorkCover’s promotion of OHSMS in Australia The Australian government has been active in the past decade in creating what Saksvik and Quinlan (2003) call a “hybrid mixture of regulatory mandate and incentives to promote the ‘voluntary’ adoption of OHSMSs by employers.” The WorkCover Authority (the workplace insurer) in the Australian Capital Territory describes their approach as a continuum from co-regulatory to enforcement strategies, ranging from recognition of best practice, through technical and systems development advice, provision of guidance materials, legislative advice, to the issuance of notices and prosecution of those who refuse to comply (www.workcover.act.gov.au/about/index.html).
The various state and federal governments have developed audit systems which have incorporated the essential elements of OHSMSs into their criteria; some of these being the WorkSafe Plan in Western Australia, TriSafe Management Systems Audit in Queensland, the Safety Achiever Business System in South Australia, SafetyMAP in the State of Victoria, (Gallagher et al., 2003). However, a recent inquiry to the Victorian WorkCover Authority about the number of companies undergoing SafetyMap audits, and their premium rates in comparison to non-audited firms brought the response that the relatively small number of companies
Institute for Work & Health