Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) is a unique, collaborative program that is designed to promote superiority in safety and health at DOE contractor sites.
In 2003, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) officially gained VPP Star status. This new ranking served as the next logical step in ORISE’s established and growing safety program based on the Integrated Safety Management system.
Originally launched by DOE in January 1994, VPP was designed to promote public recognition of outstanding programs with improved safety and health performance. VPP represents DOE’s high priority for operating in the safest way possible, and the program serves as a visible and measurable indicator of this priority.
VPP brings several workplace advantages, including improved labor/ management relations, reduced workplace injuries and illnesses, increased employee involvement, improved morale and reduced absenteeism.
VPP operates under five hallmark values:
- Management leadership
- Employee involvement
- Work site analysis
- Hazard prevention and control
- Safety and health training
The ORISE management team originally initiated the pursuit of VPP certification, and the team continues to integrate safety into all aspects of ORISE operations. ORISE Director Andy Page has set a goal for ORISE to have zero accidents “by choice, not by chance.”
Although management supports and implements the safety message, VPP depends heavily on each employee to hold safety in the highest regard. To encourage complete participation in the company’s safety program, each ORISE staff member is empowered to stop work if at any point they do not feel safe.
Likewise, employees are rewarded for taking the initiative in making their work environment more safe. The VIPPY Awards for Continuous Improvement are periodically awarded to ORISE staff members who demonstrate outstanding initiative in helping make ORISE a safer place to work.
Employee involvement also includes making safety at home a top priority. ORISE continues to receive heavy participation in its annual safety drawing contest, where children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of employees are encouraged to submit original artwork depicting a safety message. The winning entries are then incorporated into a safety calendar that is distributed to every employee and contest participant.
Work Site Analysis
Due to the type of and complexity of DOE facilities, VPP also includes the coverage of radiation protection/nuclear safety and emergency management. While most ORISE facilities consist of typical office environments, there are several programs that involve workers handling radioactive or other toxic substances. Regardless of the type of work being performed, every work environment is thoroughly analyzed for all potential safety hazards.
At ORISE, every program and support department has a set of job hazard analysis (JHA) documents that detail each activity, its safety implications, and the controls that should be used in order to prevent safety incidents. JHAs are provided to each new employee during orientation and are always available from Safety 1st—ORAU’s safety-themed intranet site.
Hazard Prevention and Control
A site safety representative (SSR) is an employee volunteer who meets quarterly to discuss safety issues and to receive continuing education on safety topics. Each building has at least one SSR who is responsible for keeping co-workers abreast of ongoing safety topics. Quarterly walkthroughs of their work areas allow SSRs to stay out in front of any potential safety problems. SSRs also assist in monitoring work stations for potential safety issues, which helps prevent and control possible hazards.
Safety and health training
Every new ORISE employee is required to participate in Web-based health and safety training modules as part of orientation. As part of continuous improvement efforts, ORISE’s Environment, Safety & Health (ESH) office sponsors numerous mandatory Web-based training modules throughout the year that are focused on health and safety topics. Additionally, ORISE’s ESH and Occupational Health office staff members work together to offer CPR training to employees on an ongoing basis, and sponsor an annual health and safety fair.