City of Toronto changing language to specify acceptance of ISO 45001

Request for Tender document will be updated to improve clarity around safety accreditations

City of Toronto changing language to specify acceptance of ISO 45001

The City of Toronto is making changes to improve clarity surrounding acceptable safety accreditations for businesses interested in bidding on city projects.

In a statement sent to Canadian Occupational Safety, the city says it is working on updating its contract language.

“While the City’s acceptance of approved equivalents to the COR program is already outlined on our website and in our tender document, we are currently working to update our Request for Tender document to provide better clarity on this requirement – including specifying that ISO and other equivalents are acceptable alternatives. We plan to finalize this update in the first quarter of 2024,” reads the statement.

Until recently, there has been significant confusion over whether the ISO 45001 accreditation was recognized by the municipality. Since the city first adopted The Certificate of Recognition (COR™) program and began rolling it out in 2016, it has been the only accreditation specifically referenced by name in city documents, including on its website and in its Request for Tender document.

Last month, Canadian Occupational Safety received confirmation from the city that it does accept COR equivalents, such as the ISO 45001, but many businesses were not aware because the acceptance of equivalents, and what qualified as an equivalent, were not explicitly made clear. The changes coming from the city should eliminate any confusion.

Kevin Brown, CEO of Cobalt Safety Consulting, led the charge on advocating for clarity on this issue. He conducted an online survey of CEOs and executives that garnered nearly 100 responses with about 80 percent saying they were not aware the city accepted equivalents to COR, thought ISO 45001 was not accepted, and felt the city’s procurement process was anti-competitive.

“I commend the City of Toronto for its decision to clearly and publicly change this language for contract procurement for construction,” says Brown, “and I'm pleased our advocacy has improved safety and resulted in these positive changes.”

Part of the confusion stems from the prevalence of COR across Canada, which was developed in this country, widely adopted, and is considered a gold standard of safety within Canada. The ISO 45001 was developed among 168 countries and is regarded as a global gold standard for safety practices in construction, technology, management, and manufacturing.

Brown hopes to see the ISO 45001 accreditation become as recognized within Canada as COR. “I think the city of Toronto is showing some leadership on this and other municipalities that have this kind of language in their contracts may also benefit from the leadership the City of Toronto is showing everybody,” says Brown.

Businesses interested in bidding on City of Toronto projects can expect to see the changes in the coming months, but shouldn’t be discouraged from bidding in the meantime, as the acceptance of COR equivalents, like ISO 45001, is now perfectly clear.