Clive Thurston: COR in Ontario really is the best safety program

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By Clive Thurston

Special to Ontario Construction Report

At the recent Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) Safety Leadership day, the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) provided a safety update report. The information provided should be of special note to those who are still reluctant to adopt and embrace the COR (Certificate of Recognition) program.

It has been 10 years since IHSA and the OGCA met with the Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations in Vancouver to sign an agreement to bring Ontario in line with other provinces providing the COR program.

When I became the OGCA’s president, safety was of primary importance and growing. The safety committee under Doug Chalmer’s leadership started working with the Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO), which later became the IHSA, to find ways to bring the various safety recognitions in line with other provinces.

We succeeded in launching the program in 2012. To be honest not everybody was pleased. Some thought we were simply adding more layers of bureaucracy. However, over time the program became more and more accepted.

IHSA created a working committee that addressed issues quickly and effectively as participants sought ways to improve the system. The committee continues today, helping associations and businesses who are having difficulty with COR.

The biggest issue we had was the audit. This is the strength of the COR program compared to third-party auditing programs as it is designed to ensure safety programs are in place, up to date, and are being implemented.

This is contrary to other types of recognition which only ensure that you have a process. Just having a process doesn’t mean you increase health and safety. It is easier to set up a process without follow-through, but it’s not cheaper. If we believe that health and safety is at the core of our business, why would we be seeking out programs of a lesser standard?

Protecting our employees, ensuring that they have the right to come home safe to their families, is not something to be taken lightly and trusted to a system that simply says, “we have a safety program.”

“IHSA is confident that COR certified companies are safer companies,” says Paul Casey, the IHSA’s vice-president, Programs and Strategic Development. “COR certified firms are audited annually to ensure that they are controlling all workplace hazards and are confident that they are protecting their workplaces. These findings confirm that a COR certified firm performs safer than a non-certified firm.”

Across the country, other provinces implementing the COR programs were showing amazing results. Studies coming out of the West clearly showed without exception that COR certified firms were not only safer but were enjoying an economic advantage over their competitors.

The IHSA contracted with researchers at the University of British Columbia to study the impact of COR certification on Ontario workplaces. This research study compared COR certified firms with similar non-certified firms in Ontario and found that COR certified firms demonstrated a 28 per cent improvement in their lost time performance. This is greater than what the early adopters in the West achieved in prior research studies which ranged from 9 to16 per cent. The ICI sector leads all other sectors in Ontario.

IHSA is in discussions with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to determine the value of claims avoided due to COR certification. Early reviews indicate that the expected dollar amount will be substantial.

At present, no studies demonstrate that ISO 45001 shows any improved performance for lost time injuries, so why are the bureaucrats allowing this to be recognized and not promoting the COR program ahead of it?

Why do we in Ontario feel we should be subservient to a foreign program that is clearly inferior to our own Canadian program? Are we so afraid of demanding that they meet our standards?

The COR program levels the playing field when bidding for work, makes things easier for owners to identify safe companies and makes the collecting of paperwork far simpler without the need for third-party safety organizations. The strength of the program is the fact that it is audited to verify that it is being implemented in the workplace and jobsites.

The difference between COR and ISO 45001 is the auditing. While the COR program takes in the scope of the WSIB account of the employer and observations, ISO auditors can choose to do an “on the books” audit” on their own or they can do an “off the books” audit which is an audit not submitted to a registrar and they sell these services.

The industry needs to unconditionally support COR and educate members, owners, and the Ministry of Labour (MOL).

We need to take a strong stand to defend a program that is proven by statistical evidence across the country. COR firms are safer and that is the bottom line.

IHSA continues to work with an advisory committee to address shortcomings in the system and make improvements wherever possible. Bring the issues forward to have them addressed and strengthen the system. It is not wise to support a cornucopia of other programs that lack the COR program’s high standards.

The independent studies confirm the value of COR, and I urge the Ministry of Labour and all associations to continue to support the COR program and make it the premier standard for health and safety in Ontario.

Clive Thurston is the OGCA‘s former president. He can be reached at (416) 399-2250 or email clive@thurstoncs.com.

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