Key findings

  • Since 2000, at least 80 workers have died at “model workplaces” OSHA considers the nation’s safest, and which it exempts from some inspections. In 47 of these cases, inspectors found serious safety violations and, sometimes, tragedies that could have been averted.
  • Even when workers die and inspectors find safety violations, “model workplaces” often face minimal consequences and retain the special designation. At least 65 percent of workplaces where a fatal accident occurred remain in the special “Voluntary Protection Program” today.
  • As the program tripled in size over the last decade, OSHA cut the number of staffers overseeing it and weakened requirements for membership, raising questions about how well the program supplements the efforts of inspectors in safeguarding American workers.
  • Little widespread evidence exists that the 29-year-old program works. Despite calls by the Government Accountability Office and others for OSHA to complete a comprehensive evaluation of the program’s effectiveness, none has occurred.