When you think about Alberta’s best kept secrets, you might think of the beautiful towns of Banff and Jasper, maybe the Royal Tyrrell Museum or the fact that Alberta is where the Caesar was invented. What you probably don’t think of is its contribution and commitment to occupational health and safety. However, Alberta’s voluntary Partnership in Injury Reduction (PIR) program and the associated Certificate of Recognition (COR) is arguably the most successful occupational health and safety (OHS) certification program, not just in Canada or even North America, but globally. While surprisingly little is known about the initiative outside of our National, it is starting to enjoy more traction and recognition across Canada.

Since the program’s  launch in 1998, it has grown to 10,500 valid COR holders in Alberta. In comparison, certifications based on OSHA 18001 (now replaced by ISO 45001:2018) covers 90,000 organizations across 127 countries, which is on average less than 800 certifications per country. OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), covers 2,142 certified sites across the United States, which is 755 sites across 22 States, on average less that 50 VPP certified sites per State; and 1,387 sites Federally.  In relation these programs have not come close to reaching the same level of success as COR in Alberta.


So, what is the PIR & COR?

The PIR is a voluntary program that operates through the combined efforts of the WCB, the Ministry of Labour and Immigration (MLI), industry partners, safety associations, employers, and labour groups to improve OHS within the Province of Alberta. A COR is awarded to employers who have developed a health and safety program that meets standards established by the MLI and an accredited certifying partner (CP). The WCB in turn works with the MLI, CPs and employers to offer WCB premium incentives through the PIR program. Employers who reduce their claim costs below predicted targets and achieve a COR can earn up to 20% off their industry premium. This initiative has resulted in an impressive 45% of Alberta’s total insured labour force working for COR holders. The 45% also represent the majority of those working in high risk industries such as oil & gas, construction, manufacturing and transport.

However, COR isn’t restricted to the borders of Alberta. Across Canada other provinces are adopting it’s standards. British Columbia (BC) and Saskatchewan have implemented similar programs which have been rolled out under the auspices of WorksafeBC and Worksafe Saskatchewan, respectively.

The provincial governments aren’t the only ones seeing the benefit of getting in on the COR action. In fact, the construction industry, under the umbrella of the  Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Association (CFCSA), was one of the first to set audit criteria requirements nationally to achieve or maintain an acceptable level of health and safety performance (CORTM). The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), a member of the CFCSA, recently created an enhanced version of CORTM known as COR™ 2020. This program aligns to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skill Development’s accreditation standard, and will help safe workplaces qualify for financial rebates and recognition available under two new Ontario programs, Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers (SOSE) and Health and Safety Excellence.

Additionally, Energy Safety Canada (ESC), the COR program CP for the oil and gas industry, is currently the only CP in Canada that provides COR protocols that are cross-jurisdictional. This means that only one audit is required for organizations that operate in two or more of the three western Canadian provinces: BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

And the industry adoption trend continues in manufacturing. Under the leadership of the Manufacturing Alliance of BC, an evidence-based and nationally harmonized audit protocol, framed on COR, is being developed for the manufacturing industry in Canada. The audit’s goal is to create a protocol that satisfies international best practice standards and requirements and the sector-specific demands for risk-based auditing. Driven by a cross-jurisdictional desire for reliable and comparable audit scores, and the desire to better serve the industry, this effort aims to provide a single protocol that can be applied across organizations with worksites in multiple jurisdictions.


Why does COR matter?

Though there’s undeniable industry value in OHS management system audits and certifications globally, WorksafeBC sought empirical data that would evaluate COR’s positive impact. Dr. Christopher McLeod, an associate professor at UBC, specializing in the evaluation of occupational health and safety policies, designed research projects to assess COR’s value. Ongoing research to date shows that COR™-certified firms experience lower rates in short-term disability, long-term disability, serious injuries, and fatalities compared to non-certified firms. According to Alberta WCB, COR holders as a group have outperformed non-COR holders consistently by over 30% between 2015 and 2018, as measured by comparing loss ratios.

From these numbers, it’s clear that COR isn’t going away, in fact, it’s only trending more strongly across jurisdictions and industries. An interesting shift is that industry is increasingly getting behind COR to promote and ensure healthy and safe worksites across Canada. A prime example is the Ontario General Contractors Association’s (OGCA) who actively promotes the value of COR™ as a required standard in the Ontario construction industry; and the increasing number of public and private project owners across Canada who now expect contractors to hold a valid COR when bidding on jobs. COR is therefore fast becoming an expectation in industry.

By achieving a COR, employers are able to demonstrate that their health and safety management system has been developed, implemented, and evaluated on an annual basis through rational and comprehensive internal and external evidence-based audits. In addition, organizations receive recognition in the industry from other employers, contractors, and tradespeople for their commitment to health and safety standards.


AuditSoft Inc’s Role

AuditSoft is purpose-built to enable efficiencies and make obtaining a COR more affordable, accessible, and meaningful. It’s designed to help drive organizations of all sizes’ commitment to OHS, to assist in proving due diligence, and to identify areas for improvement in their OHS management system. Learn more about COR programs and AuditSoft at www.auditsoft.co.