How fraudulent certificates are putting worker safety at risk

We got the sense from RCMP that issue is bigger, more sophisticated than we thought, admits Energy Safety Canada CEO

How fraudulent certificates are putting worker safety at risk

An ongoing criminal investigation by the Red Deer RCMP has uncovered potentially thousands of counterfeit safety certificates.

These certificates have been distributed across Alberta, and possibly Western Canada and beyond.

Aside from the criminal aspect, the counterfeit certificates could have potentially serious safety implications.

“The impact here is if people are not trained, then they are not ready to respond safely when an unlikely event occurs in the workplace,” says Murray Elliott, President and CEO, Energy Safety Canada.

Energy Safety Canada, the national health and safety association for the oil and gas industry in Canada, creates certain national standards of training that industry members can adopt and use anywhere.

One of its most common certifications is H2S Alive®, which is training and awareness on hydrogen sulfide. This particular certification has been targeted by the aforementioned fraudsters.

And this issue is something that Energy Safety Canada has been aware of – and combatting – for years: “We have been aware of the counterfeit certificates for a number of years, and we’ve been taking measures to make it more difficult to counterfeit them […] We’ve known that it is out there.”

However, says Elliott, what has surprised his organization is that “we get the sense from the RCMP that this is bigger and more sophisticated than maybe we might have thought, and that there are maybe more out there in circulation.”

Elliott wants to get the message out to employers and employees: “It’s just almost unbelievable that someone would take their safety, and the safety of those around them, not seriously enough to actually get the proper certifications.

We need to do work together with companies and workers on how to validate these certifications and make sure that people have the training so that when something unlikely happens, they know how to respond.”

Certificate authenticity

So what exactly is a safety certificate, and how can organizations verify if one is authentic or not?

Elliott explains that safety certificates are “an official record or document that demonstrates an individual has achieved the objectives of the safety training.”

It is an official piece of paper and all of the background records that can confirm that someone has met the objectives of the safety course.

Due to the importance of the document, Energy Safety Canada has a number of safeguards in place.

Elliott explains that to check a certificate’s authenticity there are “multiple layers.”

For certificates issued by Energy Safety Canada they “have a number of anti-counterfeiting features on them, including a holographic seal and a QR code.”

Another way to check is to go on the organization’s website to see what the certificate should look like, there is also an online verification system where one can punch in the unique ID of the certificate which can tell the user whether it is valid or not.

Some certifications can vary from province to province, while others such as first aid are standardized across most provinces.

Says Elliott: “Our industry takes safety very seriously, and we’ve been working for decades to improve safety, such that the average worker in oil and gas in Canada is safer than most other sectors. We have a strong safety track record.

There are a lot of things that going into making sure people are safe: appropriate supervision, appropriate hazard identification, work planning, etc. There are a lot of barriers, but the final barrier is often the individual and them knowing how to react when there’s a mistake or a system fails.

And that's where the safety certifications really come in.”

Elliott says that this is a serious issue, one that his organization has been concerned with for a while, and he is glad that the RCMP is finally investigating:

“We want to commend the Red Deer RCMP for the dedication and effort around this investigation. This is something we’ve been aware of for a while and we’re pleased with the RCMP, and their diligence to look into this,” he says. “This is a significant issue that needs to be addressed.”