Ontario Construction News staff writer
Participants in the Certificate of Recognition (CoR) and other qualifying safety management programs will receive an estimated $140 million in rewards for excellence in occupational health and safety as part of a first-of-its-kind in Canada program unveiled by the provincial government on Friday.
The program, Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers, will formally recognize employers who successfully implement health and safety programs in their workplaces. The financial rewards will come in the form of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rebates over a three-year period.
“We know that good health and safety practices save lives,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “But they also save money. This program is a reflection of that fact. Our government wants to do everything it can to make workers safer and help businesses save money.”
Research has shown that organized, systematic approaches to health and safety increase worker participation in health and safety practices, encourage ongoing improvement and help reduce workplace injuries and illness. Similar programs in Europe and Japan have resulted in a decline in workplace accidents.
“This is a big step for Ontario’s health and safety community as we continue to move forward in protecting workers,” said Ron Kelusky, Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). “We’re adopting innovative approaches to become a modern regulator. Industry has long asked for rewards for employers who successfully promote health and safety in their workplace.”
The program is open to any employer in Ontario, regardless of size or sector. Led by the Office of the CPO, this ministry program was developed based on feedback from labour, employers and other stakeholders.
The WSIB is also building on the program by launching Health and Safety Excellence. a new program that will promote continual health and safety improvement in Ontario workplaces.
While the provincial program recognizes employers who have already implemented a health and safety management system, the WSIB’s program will encourage employers without an existing program to develop one.
“We know that businesses across the province strive to make their workplaces as healthy and safe as possible for their employees,” said WSIB chair Elizabeth Witmer.“Our new Health and Safety Excellence program gives them a roadmap to improve health and safety, whether they’re just getting started or want to optimize processes they already have in place.”
“We have supported the concept of accreditation and recognizing good employers for the past 10 years and are pleased that the current government is moving forward with this important health and safety initiative,” said Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA).
A government backgrounder says four systems have been recognized as occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS) including standards set by ISO and CSA, but the one most familiar to the construction industry will be the COR 2020 updated standard to be implemented in January 2020. CoR, administrated in Ontario by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) and supported by several industry groups, including the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), requires rigorous systems and safety audits.
CoR or similar certification has become a mandatory requirement for contractors to bid on many Ontario public sector projects. The new Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers program presumably will help employers recover costs they need to spend to qualify and maintain their CoR status.
Other standards are currently under review and will be posted once accredited by the Chief Protection Officer. Employers with different OHSMS not yet accredited, can apply for accreditation in January
To achieve employer recognition, employers must
- Provide the CPOO with verification of successful OHSMS implementation through a third-party audit;
- Meeting performance criteria demonstrating compliance with Ontario’s workplace health and safety legislation
- Demonstrating a commitment to worker participation and the internal responsibility system at the workplace.