Safety on the job should be everybody's concern. While organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets laws, the preferred method of safety is by everybody taking proactive steps. The Voluntary Protection Program, or VPP for short, is a philosophy that all associates of an organization strive for, on a voluntary basis, to ensure a safe workplace. VPP has been refined into a science, and both OSHA and the United States Army concur on the four elements of VPP (see References 1 and 2).
All associates must be actively involved with safety (see Reference 1). This means management, labor, and all others who enter the work site, such as subcontractors. While OSHA safety laws set the guidelines, it cannot be everywhere at once. Furthermore, it cannot set a specific law for every little nuance in a workplace. According to OSHA, cooperation between all associates is vital (see Reference 2). OSHA further recommends a safety policy be written down, specific to your industry (see Reference 2).
The second element is analysis (see Reference 1). The workplace must be thoroughly analyzed to identify hazards (see Reference 2). Part of the analysis is a walk-through of all areas to identify unsafe conditions. Finding a problem is the first step to solving it, and by analysis, problems can be brought to light. OSHA recommends self-inspections by staff members who are trained in hazard analysis (see Reference 2).
Training is vital to a safe workplace (see Reference 1). While the other three elements are just as important, it is all for naught if training is not instituted. For example, an associate fell off a ladder because he was not trained on how to use a ladder correctly. Training should be comprehensive for all, and not just for a few (see Reference 2). For example, a secretary may have to climb a ladder from time to time, to reach archived documents. She should be trained on how to use a ladder correctly.
The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is directly applicable. Analysis identifies the hazard, but only after it is present. For VPP to be effective, active prevention of hazards must take place (see References 1 and 2). A step in prevention would be to wear ear plugs in a high noise environment to prevent hearing loss. By having a formalized prevention program in place, safety is increased because hazards are decreased.
In your personal life, VPP should be practiced as well. Around the house, you should identify, for example, tripping hazards. If you like working on cars or cooking, use VPP to work safely. This would include using safety blocks when jacking a car up, or keeping a small fire extinguisher in the kitchen, rated for kitchen grease fires.