The eCompliance team recently attended the Ontario General Contractor’s Association’s COR Open House and Leadership Conference for an action-packed day of safety best practice sharing with some truly exceptional EHS pros.
In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started with the COR program and learn some expert advice from safety leaders who have gone through the process.
What is COR?
First things first, let’s outline what COR is: the Certificate of Recognition (COR™) is an occupational health and safety accreditation, given to organizations with EHS programs that meet national safety standards. The COR program also provides employers with an audit tool that helps assess the effectiveness of their health and safety management systems. COR originated in Alberta 20 years ago and the movement is now spreading across Canada to drive positive workplace behavior and ultimately improve safety performance. COR made its way to Ontario 5 years ago and the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association’s (IHSA) VP of Programs and Strategic Development, Paul Casey, said during his presentation that as of March 3, 2017, 186 workplaces in Ontario are COR certified and over 950 more are actively pursuing their certification.
Why is COR on the rise?
While COR is still most widely adopted among leaders in construction, the movement is now gaining popularity across a multitude of industries. According to Frank Perricone, President of Percon Construction and panelist on the COR Leadership round table, safety just wasn’t talked about in the past. Thankfully, safety is finally getting the seat at the table it deserves and we’re now seeing greater emphasis on building strong safety cultures and the resulting competitive advantages associated with workplace safety.
The benefits of completing COR
There are many benefits to pursuing COR which is why the number of certified companies in Ontario continues to grow each year. Completing the COR program reinforces your company’s commitment to safety excellence, will help attract more safety-conscious workers to your firm, and the audit process can uncover gaps in your safety system to help you continuously improve your performance.
The reputational impact of COR is also substantial. COR certified companies often get more work as they qualify ahead of uncertified firms for certain jobs. COR certification helps assure your clients that your company truly values safety and uses best in class safety practices while on the job.
In the words of Jerry Muzzerall, Health and Safety Manager at TACC, who lead the certification process at his company, “completing COR elevates you to the elite.”
COR program challenges to look out for
Panelists during the round table were forthcoming – the COR process can be a challenge. There was consensus among everyone that element 2 in the audit process, Hazard Assessment, Analysis and Control is the most difficult to pass and everyone initially fell short in that section and weren’t assessing hazards up to COR standards. However, if anything, this step in the process served as a welcome reminder that no matter what, your health and safety standards can always be higher. In the wise words of Mike Barron, Health and Safety Manager at Benson Steel, “the enemy of great is good and there is no such thing as ‘good enough’ when it comes to safety. There is always room for improvement.”
A secondary challenge that cropped up among panelists is the cultural change within the organization that needs to come with COR. Ultimately, COR isn’t just a certificate – it’s indicative of a larger cultural change that needs to take place across an organization, from executives to workers in the field. And if COR isn’t embraced as a lifestyle across your company, you won’t be successful achieving the accreditation.
Advice for overcoming COR program challenges
During the COR round table discussion, many important pieces of advice were shared and echoed across the panel. Here are just a few things the experts recommend as you embark on your COR journey:
- Safety and leadership must be tied together at every level of the organization
- Secure cultural buy-in before starting the COR program
- Hire someone who is qualified to lead the COR process
- Make ongoing employee training a priority
- Don’t think of COR as a cost – think of the accreditation as an investment with a return
- Share best practices across the industry – safety isn’t proprietary
- Have patience – the process will take time but will be worth it
- When in doubt, reach out to the IHSA – they’re happy to answer questions and offer advice