For the last six years, the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) has been a supporter of the Certificate of Recognition (COR) program.
We felt it was vital to bring to Ontario and did so in response to the fact that the government was mandated to bring in an accreditation program.
The OGCA felt an already proven, effective health and safety system was preferable to trying to create a "made in Ontario" solution.
All the provinces that have adopted COR have irrefutable statistical information showing COR works and improves safety and efficiency when used. These statistics are unquestionable, yet some here in Ontario continue to push back, despite many prominent owners adopting the program.
False claims that this was only for the large firms and will hurt small business are not borne out in every other location where COR has been introduced and adopted.
Are there issues with COR? No, but there are issues on how the program has been operated here in Ontario. These, in our opinion, are two distinct and separate issues.
Last year, after hearing numerous complaints from our members, we met with the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) to discuss addressing these issues.
We invited other associations who had concerns to join us in collaborating in finding solutions to improve the delivery, to make it more user-friendly, cost-effective, eliminate duplication, look at a Precor program, etc.
While the OGCA has continued to work towards these goals, others have chosen to question the value of COR and not work to find a solution which, to us, is short sighted.
Provincial accreditation will not eliminate an owner's preference to have firms COR certified so we must work to make the delivery of the program better.
The OGCA has continued to work with the IHSA and the Ministry of Labour (MOL) to make recommendations on ways to improve the program. A number of changes have already been made, including recent changes to how the third party auditor system works.
Here is a brief rundown:
• the IHSA has implemented improvements to how we communicate with firms participating in COR;
• the IHSA has held the cost of desk audits;
• the IHSA has completed the pilot of the COR seminars. The seminar series has been reduced to five days from the six days required during the pilot. Program materials have been finalized and are being transferred to selected IHSA consultant/trainers this August;
• pre-COR audit and guidelines have been drafted as of June 2017;
• the IHSA launched a 12-month associate auditor pilot in October 2016 in order to meet the growing demands for COR audits. Currently, IHSA has agreements with 10 associate auditors who meet IHSA's auditor standard. IHSA introduced new guidelines regarding length of audits as well as thresholds for expenses in June 2017. IHSA lead auditors review all audit plans and audit reports of the associate auditors; and
• the efficiency review of the administration of COR is ongoing. The IHSA has made significant improvements to the desk audit process, has been able to exceed turnaround times and is currently up-to-date with all audit submissions. The IHSA is committed to reducing the number of program elements once the MOL has completed its consultation on accreditation.
As well as these positive initiatives, talks have been very positive with the WSIB and MOL on the need to have a recognition system for COR certified firms. Such programs exist in the other provinces and have proven to be effective.
COR is not perfect and it is expensive and difficult to obtain. One has to be committed to the program and recognize this is not a cost, but an effort for an industry to rise above the current levels of health and safety where workers are still being injured and killed.
As I stated, the issue is not "Is COR the right system?" Of that, there can be no argument. Rather the challenge is, can we do better in how it is implemented in Ontario? To that, again, there is no argument. Of course we can.
We urge government and our industry partners not to be swayed by misinterpretation of the facts but to stay the course. But more importantly, to step up and support efforts to make COR more effective, affordable and efficient in Ontario.
Clive Thurston is the president of the OGCA. This column originally appeared in the OGCA July newsletter. Send comments and Industry Perspectives column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.