COR is a great opportunity for Ontario contractors, Aecon executive says

The nationally recognized Certificate of Recognition (COR), an occupational health and safety audit program, is a great opportunity for Ontario, said Mike Archambault, vice-president of Safety and Loss Control with Aecon.

Aecon is COR certified in all of the provinces that have the program. COR began in Alberta more than 20 years ago and became voluntary in Ontario on April 1 of this year, leaving Quebec as the only province without the program.

“I personally think COR is a great opportunity for Ontario contractors and employees to improve on safety in the workplace,” he told the crowd at the Ontario General Contractors Association’s (OGCA) recent leadership meeting, which revolved around COR.

COR provides employers with a health and safety management system to eliminate incidents, injuries and illnesses. In many provinces and territories, it is a pre-qualification requirement for contractors working in and out of the province. Archambault said it is important for companies who work in various provinces.

COR is continually looking for best practices.

“There’s no patent on safety, so when somebody’s got a good idea, believe me, you to want to share it because that’s what we’re all about,” said Archambault.

“Our workers are very transient in nature, they go from contractor to contractor at the end of the day so it’s to our benefit to make sure that other contractors are driving safety to the highest standards possible you can.”

Across Canada, the COR program has 13 elements with some jurisdictions having a provincial supplement.

It essentially establishes safety standards and “you develop your work practices to these standards and then you’re audited to those standards as well,” said Archambault.

“It helps establishes safety systems and best practices that you may not even have in your workplace, that you may not even be aware of. And you may look at these things and say ‘wow these are good things, these are good tools I can use to drive prevention in the workplace.’”

Archambault said if you’re driving safety by the provincial occupational health and safety standards outlined in the Green Book, you’re not going to prevent accidents in the workplace. He described them as minimum standards and not safety systems.

“COR allows the contractors to establish safety systems outside of the legislative requirements that you see out there to help you drive safety in the workplace.”

Statistics of incidents jump in the initial year a company becomes COR certified because every incident is reported, even if it’s a near-miss. Archambault said not doing well in an audit is not the end of the world.

“Our board every year expects an audit, they want to see a third party audit and it really adds a really strong due diligence element to your company...believe me, our audits don’t come back perfect,” he said.

“We started to see a lot of mileage and a lot of opportunity for continuous improvement as well.”

Archambault pointed out that there are some challenges with COR as well that include maintaining COR best of class standards, training internal auditors, the frequency of audits, how it will be funded in Ontario and the difficulty for the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) to get it off the ground.

“We have to insist in Ontario that our IHSA is funded to the ability to actually give us the best of class standards and to have the systems to make sure that they’re current,” he said.

“There’s no point in being audited if the audit system is outdated, so we have to insist that the audit standards are world class.”