Canadian Contractor

By Treena Hein   

Safety Certified

Canadian Contractor canada certified contractor COR

Certificates of Recognition are a growing part of the industry landscape.

COR certified companies send the message that they take safety seriously and therefore fare better in the labour market. Photo: Group4 Studio / Getty Images.

Each year in Canada, the Certificate of Recognition safety program becomes more well-known and a little more widespread in the construction industry, not just for its many benefits but because it’s becoming a standard expectation on larger projects. Those smaller contractors who subcontract on larger projects or work for home-building companies – or even those that only do their own projects – may want to seek certification to reap the many benefits.

But before we get into benefits, let’s take a quick look at the program. COR accreditation verifies that companies are meeting national occupational health and safety standards. It began in Alberta more than 20 years ago. It’s overseen by the Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations but implemented by provincial agencies such as the BC Construction Safety Alliance (which also serves as the current contact for CFCSA inquiries.)

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 must 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 for residential contractors and homebuilders, including lower annual insurance premiums. In Alberta for example, COR (or SECOR, Small Employer COR) qualifies employers for Workers Compensation Board premium rebates of up to 20 percent. And in B.C., with COR certification, a company scores a 10 percent rebate from WorkSafeBC.

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. COR2020 has a new format and the audit tool has a reduced number of elements.

COR-certified contractors might also have an easier time with recruiting tradespeople. “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,” BCCSA director of COR and injury management, Vernita Hsu, explains.

COR is also a practical way of demonstrating to customers and the public that you take 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.”

Beyond all these benefits is the fact that COR certification is becoming a requirement of doing business on larger projects. COR is now frequently used as a pre-qualifying and/or condition of contract by both public and private project owners across Canada.

Uptake and more in Manitoba

Adoption of COR has been very successful among residential contractors in Manitoba. The Construction Safety Association of Manitoba began promoting COR among smaller contractors many years ago by offering practical resources, including associated checklists and guides. CSA Manitoba executive director, Sean Scott, notes that financial incentives definitely play a role in becoming COR certified, but they are only one of the benefits. “In 2020, we had about $2 billion in construction payroll in Manitoba and $3.5 million in prevention rebates provided to COR-certified employers,” he reports. “In 2019, severe injuries were reduced by 14.4 percent from the year before and that’s directly influenced by COR certification. It’s an established and creditable program that results in fewer time-loss incidents, improves morale and retention and provides a systematic approach to doing a job. It allows safety to become an integrated part of production, quality and efficiency.”

While the time to achieve COR certification will vary depending on the size and complexity of a contractor’s operations, Scott puts the minimum time at three to six months. The CSAM offers the required COR training courses every month, adaptable templates, personal consultation and more to ensure swift implementation. The cost is $775 for the required training and audit in the initial year of COR in Manitoba, and $550 for maintenance years.


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