Alberta’s COR program about to change

Updates to OHS Act mean 'the gold standard is much closer aligned with the minimum standard'

Alberta’s COR program about to change

Last year brought a slew of changes to Alberta’s occupational health and safety legislation and, as a result, obtaining the current Certificate of Recognition (COR) is not quite as impressive as it once was. The provincial government has identified a need to modernize the COR program, according to Jody Young, assistant deputy minister, Safe, Fair and Healthy Workplaces, Government of Alberta.

“We have made significant changes to the occupational health and safety act which has moved the bar on the minimum standard for occupational health and safety in the province. So, now, the gold standard is much closer aligned with the minimum standard,” said Young, speaking at the Alberta Health & Safety Conference in Edmonton on Feb. 22.

After extensive reviews with stakeholders, the government has drafted a set of goals it’s hoping to achieve for the program over the next couple years. First up is a steering committee meeting to determine the strategic vision and direction of the program. The four largest COR certifying partners in the province will sit on the committee with representatives from the smaller partners rotating in, along with the Workers Compensation Board of Alberta and the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“We’re looking at moving the current government’s model to support the concept of continuous improvement, consistency and focus on health and safety outcomes — and not just the opportunity to bid on jobs,” Young said.

The Small Employer Certificate of Recognition (SECOR) program will be replaced by a new, simpler program. Research from the University of British Columbia found that the current SECOR had very little impact on those small businesses holding the certification.

“We are trying to fit small businesses into a big business model, and it doesn’t always strike the right balance,” Young said.

The government is hoping to develop a new program that would better address the specific needs of small businesses and would be seen as equivalent to the COR.

Likely, a welcomed change for cross-jurisdictional employers will be the recognition of CSA and ISO certifications as equivalent to COR.

“They spend tremendous amounts of money getting those types of certification. How can we in Alberta recognize those certifications and not make them jump through many, many hoops to get our COR certification as an equivalency?” Young said.

The government is also looking at a new, enhanced COR that would denote excellence in health and safety.

“In the future, looking at the opportunity for an advanced COR for those organizations that want to be leaders in industry, leaders in health and safety. Is there another more advanced COR that they can shoot for?” Young said.

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of COS.