Work safety association says program might have prevented oil rig - - The News for South Mississippi

Work safety association says program might have prevented oil rig deaths

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A massive federal investigation is trying to figure out what went wrong at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Now members of a public-private safety program say the explosion that brought on the Gulf crisis might have been prevented with another layer of safety inspections.

The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association is a collaboration of company managers and employees along with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration or OSHA. The group works to promote safety and prevent accidents and is meeting in Biloxi this week.

Vendors showed off the latest in protective gear to members. Association officials say businesses that sign up for the program agree to ongoing safety audits internally and by OSHA and other government inspectors.

"You take a look to see what can be go wrong and you make sure you do a good comprehensive review of that,"said Art Edwards, Region IV Board Member. "Once you understand what can go wrong then you look to see what you can put in place to prevent things from going wrong."

Officials say being proactive in preventing accidents reduces injuries and saves lives.. They say had the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig been a VPP site,. they believe the 11 workers might still be alive.

Buddy Tucker works for Mundy Companies which is member of V.P.P.

"What we'd like to do is have an offshore V.P.P. type program to where you'd have a complete audit," Tucker said. "Best practice would be shared from company to company. It doesn't matter if it's Conoco Phillips or Chevron or Exxon or BP. We think through the success of V.P.P. that we could improve safety on the rigs."

However, that oil rig program may never happen because V.P.P. is fighting for its life because of funding cuts. The association has launched petition drives and letter writing campaigns to stop the government from cutting OSHA funds.

Tucker said, "V.P.P. sites versus non-V.P.P. sites have injury rates over 50 percent lower which is awesome. So it's a proven success record. So my question is why would anyone in their right mind pull funding from VPP?"

Officials say non-V.P.P. sites are not likely to get a government safety audit until after a complaint or someone gets hurt..

"Unless there is a significant injury, fatality, something like that. You're not going to get an inspection," said Tucker. "It could be a long time which is really unacceptable."

V.P.P. also does safety training for employees. Officials say there is no charge to companies for the services.

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