Veolia Participates in the Voluntary Protection Program

OSHA’s highest honor under the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) is bestowed on a handful of companies each year who complete an arduous application process to verify that the best business practices and safety procedures are strictly followed.


“VPP is a program to raise safety awareness for all employees at a particular site,” explains Rich Finnegan, Health & Safety Manager at Veolia’s Marlboro, MA location. “It’s not really a policy, it’s more of a cultural change focused on safety awareness throughout an organization, so that everyone from management to entry level employees work safely every day."    
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“The OSHA program requires you to have an excellent safety record. Your incident rate must be below the national average that’s outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for your particular industry. If you meet that criteria and feel you have a good safety program, you can invite OSHA into your workplace to provide their opinion of your program. It’s a lot of work and faith in your safety program.”


“One of the big things we’ve done to adopt a culture of safety is to allow any employee to report a safety issue in the workplace anonymously,” says Finnegan. “We set it up as an email address but employees can also report anonymously via paper or phone call. We also do a large amount of interactive training. We go around, see what people want to focus on, and discuss what goals they have."

“It’s not just an EHS manager responsible for all this. We have to gain a lot of buy-in and spread out some of the responsibilities. That’s where our safety committee plays a huge role. We have account managers, technical people and field service people all examining our safety program. They look at the incidents we’ve had, things we could do to improve safety, and the anonymous safety reports that have been submitted to get them fixed.”


“Veolia implemented a VPP analysis team about seven years ago,” notes John Dyer, Health & Safety Manger at Veolia’s York, PA location. “Other Veolia locations were able to call upon that analysis team to audit their facility before they attempt to get into VPP to make sure they’re really where they need to be in the program."

“For the inspection itself, OSHA will bring in two or three OSHA auditors and two or three SGE auditors, which are Special Government Employees. These are employees from other industries who volunteer their time to assist OSHA on these audits. The audits normally take two to three days. OSHA sits down with the SGEs, and they interview employees on different aspects of safety and what’s going on with the facility. They also review documents and records and ensure that all the items you say should be there are there.”


“There are a lot of benefits to the VPP,” acknowledges Finnegan. “I think one of the most important is involving all employees in safety and hopefully that reduces the amount of injuries we have in the work place. We want everybody to go home the same way they came into work."

“In addition, you receive national recognition as being a participant in the program, which helps show your dedication to safety to potential customers as well. There is also an economic benefit to it.”

 “There are only about 1,700 companies across the country that have this honor,” adds Dyer. “It also gives you the opportunity once you’re in the program to become a special governmental employee and assist OSHA on other audits. It’s allowed me to assist on ten other audits for other companies going through VPP.  I can then bring some things back to Veolia that they do at their locations or show them things we do here that may help them out.”


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