Letter to the editor re: Why Canada needs standardized safety certifications in construction

Key differences between COR® and ISO 45001:2018 highlighted by CFCSA

Letter to the editor re: Why Canada needs standardized safety certifications in construction

To the editor,
Canadian Occupational Safety

We were disappointed to see that a recent article (“Why Canada needs standardized safety certifications in construction — Canadian Occupational Safety, November 14, 2022) contained significant errors and inaccuracies.

The article indicates that the COR® accreditation program is “run by the Canadian Construction Association.”  In fact, COR® has been implemented as a national accreditation standard by the Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations (CFCSA), an umbrella organization for provincial and territorial construction safety associations, since 2000. On behalf of the CFCSA, COR® has been nationally registered and trademark-approved by the Canadian Intellectual Properties Office since 2007. COR® is delivered in each jurisdiction by the appropriate member association.

The article attributes the notion that COR® is an audit, while ISO 45001:2018 is a safety management system to Kevin Brown, CEO of Cobalt Safety Systems. In fact, both programs are safety management systems that are confirmed through audit. However, the questions used by the ISO auditor might change from year to year, while those used by the COR® auditor remain consistent, allowing construction employers to work toward the same prescriptive standard year after year.

The article further states that: “COR can’t be transferred between provinces.”

Although COR® is a national standard, COR® Certification must be granted by the authority having jurisdiction in each province and territory. A memorandum of understanding between CFCSA members provides a simple path for companies who are COR® Certified in their home jurisdiction to apply to have their certification in good standing recognized in any other jurisdiction, at no cost to them. This will allow the company to bid on any project requiring COR® certification in a jurisdiction in which they do not have a permanent base of operations.

Brown is further quoted:

“COR is local to the province you're in and unfortunately, if I leave Ontario, and I go work in Alberta, I have to do COR there again.”

This is misleading. As previously stated, a company could utilize its COR® certification from one jurisdiction to receive COR® reciprocity in another jurisdiction. However, validation through the jurisdiction granting reciprocity would need to occur by the same date that the original COR® certification expires. If an Ontario company creates a base of operations in Alberta, for example, that company would have to become COR®-certified in Alberta, but only by the same date that the original Ontario COR® certification expires — just as it would have been required to do in Ontario.

The article mentions that SG Contractors achieved recognition under the Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers (SOSE) program by achieving certification in ISO 45001:2018. However, the article does not point out that the SOSE program recognizes certification in any one of four different standards as a prerequisite — including IHSA COR® 2020.

We fully agree with the underlying theme of the article that fully-harmonized construction safety training across Canada would be desirable.  But standardization becomes extremely challenging, as it requires the appropriate legislative bodies in each jurisdiction to work together to harmonize. In the meantime, COR® is a unique and very successful accreditation program that recognizes the overwhelming commonality in safety standards across all jurisdictions.

Sean Scott
Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations