OHS Canada Magazine

Demand for COR certification continues to grow in Canada


In Ontario, many municipal infrastructure projects require COR certification or be ISO 45001 registered for bidding. (Balkanscat/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published in Glass Canada, a sister publication to OHS Canada.

By Treena Hein

Again this year in Canada, adoption of the Certificate of Recognition (COR) safety program is growing in the glazing sector, especially in Ontario — not just for its many benefits but because it’s becoming a standard expectation across the construction industry.

COR is now frequently used as a pre-qualifying and/or condition of contract by both public and private project owners across Canada. Therefore, to ensure successful bids, contractors increasingly only want to work with subcontractors that are also COR-certified. In addition, having everyone on the job site COR-certified ensures that all health and safety activities are aligned.

COR started in Alberta over 20 years ago and has grown substantially in western Canada, but demand is catching up in Ontario and the rest of Canada.

According to Jeffrey Makimoto, plant and quality manager at TAGG Industries and a National Construction Safety Officer, the question of whether parties are COR-certified “does come up” on estimates.

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For her part, Sobi Ragunathan, an external COR auditor for the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (which administers COR in Ontario) at 4S Consulting Services Inc. in Markham, Ont., notes that there is a huge demand for COR certification across Ontario.

She says many municipal infrastructure projects require COR certification or be ISO 45001 registered for bidding.

“It began with the City of Toronto,” she notes, “and has expanded from there.”

In British Columbia, COR participation has also increased substantially in recent years, almost doubling since 2010, notes Vernita Hsu, director of COR & Injury Management at the BC Construction Safety Alliance.

“Our sense at the BCCSA,” says Hsu, “is that COR demand will continue to grow, particularly because the program has been empirically proven to reduce injuries. There is no other system that can claim that.”

COR is overseen by the Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations (CFCSA) but implemented by provincial agencies such as BCCSA. The BCCSA also serves as the current contact for CFCSA and COR inquiries.

COR 101

COR is an accreditation program that verifies companies are meeting national occupational health and safety standards. While the bulk of COR firms are in construction, the standard is also used by other business sectors in some western Canadian provinces.

COR aims to provide employers with an effective safety and health management system to reduce safety incidents, accidents and injuries as well as their associated human and financial costs. Its effectiveness at lowering injury rates has been proven though recent independent impact evaluations in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health in collaboration with BCCSA and WorkSafeBC (see CFCSA website for the research briefs).

To achieve COR certification, companies demonstrate many aspects of workplace health and safety, culminating in an external audit, including policies and procedures, training, hazard assessment, emergency response and incident investigation.

Companies must train their own internal auditors to ensure compliance between external audits (generally every three years).

A range of benefits

The benefits of COR certification are many, including lower annual insurance premiums.

In Alberta for example, COR qualifies employers for Workers Compensation Board premium refunds of up to 20 per cent.

In B.C., Hsu notes that besides the annual 10 per cent savings from WorkSafeBC for OH&S COR certification, “over time, with lower injury rates and lower claim costs, insurance premiums will reflect additional savings.”

In Ontario, COR is being migrated to COR 2020 to help workplaces qualify for financial rewards and recognition from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. COR 2020 has a new format and the audit tool has a reduced number of elements.

Hsu also stresses that COR-certified firms generally achieve more success with worker recruitment.

“In an increasingly competitive labour market where workers have more options for employment, they will choose to work for companies who have their best interests at heart,” she explains.

“If you have the option of working for an employer that has a system in place that will ensure you have a close-to-20 per cent better chance of avoiding injury and more importantly, serious injury – all things being equal, the choice becomes obvious.”

COR is also a practical way of demonstrating to the public that a company takes safety seriously, adds Hsu.

“COR certification makes a strong statement about a company’s commitment to protecting the well-being of workers and maintaining a culture of safety on jobsites,” she says. “Having a third-party audited system shows the world that someone beyond the company thinks your safety system is ‘good.’”

Timeline and costs

The length of time required to achieve COR certification depends on the status of a company’s existing occupational health and safety management system when it starts the process.

That is, with B.C. as an example, companies that achieve certification must have sufficient evidence to demonstrate the development and implementation of a functioning system that meets the elements in BCCSA’s OHS COR National Audit Document — and while some companies already have systems in place that meet all the requirements, others will need to augment what they have or develop other aspects of their system from scratch.

However, many resources are available to assist companies through the process.

Cost of certification will vary depending on existing systems and also the size and complexity of operations.

“This being said, in most cases the program pays for itself over time with the annual insurance rebates,” adds Hsu.

“In addition, our subjective sense is that once a company adopts COR, it helps to increase productivity and also improves other business processes such as procurement and HR. Companies see the benefits of a formal documented system, continuous improvement through the plan-do-check-act cycle, and so on, and apply them to other areas of operation.”

When asked about the extent of COR certification among members of the Ontario Glass & Metal Association (OGMA, of which TAGG is a member and which also encompasses the Architectural Glass & Metal Contractors Association), Makimoto isn’t sure.

He knows that they include TAGG, Flynn and OBC. But looking forward, he believes “there will be a time in the future where all sub-contractors on all sites will need to be COR-certified to work.”

Treena Hein is a freelance reporter in Ottawa.