Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
Alberta is implementing stricter guidelines for a certificate of recognition(COR) system to ensure improved scrutiny of core holding COR-holding companies that experience a work-related deaths and serious injuries.
“Losing a COR is bad for business,” Alberta employment and immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said in announcing changes in effect July 1, 2011. “Albertans have the right to work in safe and healthy conditions. We’re putting employers on notice: after July 1, 2011, will be launching reviews as soon after a workplace incident as possible,”Lukaszuk added.
Under the provinces ‘Partners in Injury Reduction’ program,(PIR) a company can earn a certificate by developing an Occupational Health & Safety management system and meeting establish standards. COR-holding firms are eligible for rebates over as much as 20% of the capital WCB premiums, and are also able to bid on contracts were a COR is a prerequisite.
A stakeholder review of PIR that began in 2009 and some criticism of the program from Alberto’s auditor general in 2010 combined to convince the provincial government to change criteria around the program’s employer review process, which is used when determining whether or not a company’s COR should be revoked.
Beginning July 1, 2011, these situations may prompt a formal review of an employer’s COR: a fatality or serious injury/incident; two or more stop-work orders within 12 months; and ongoing oh&s officer activity that indicates possible health and safety issues.
These same situations could’ve triggered an employer review in the past, but the criteria is no better defined says AEI spokesperson Barry Harrison.
Also in line with the new rules, a certified company that is charged under the Occupational Health & Safety Act will see its PIR rebate withheld, pending the outcomes of the charges. The same is true of COR holders who certificates are under review.
A formal employer review is not necessarily automatic under the new criteria, as there are some exceptions, Harrison says. AEI staff first informally assess certified companies and determine if, “based on the circumstances of what has gone on, an employer review will be triggered.”
For instance, AEI information notes that a formal review will not occur when fatalities are related to non-occupational medical conditions, such as a heart attack, by occupational diseases linked to the actions of an employer prior to its certification, or by non-occupational motor vehicle deaths.
AEI notes that certified companies that do not receive a formal review will be required to develop and implement action plans and make improvements to the workplace. If a COR holder finds itself in trouble again within two years, it must arrange for and pass an external audit. Failure to create a satisfactory action plan or to score at least 80% on the audit will result in COR cancellation.
Over the past seven years, just four companies have lost or certificates as a result of failed audits ordered in response to the employer review process.
Gary Wagar, Executive Director of the Alberta Construction Safety Association in Edmonton, says that he does not foresee a notable increase in the number of construction employers being de-certified. What will likely rise as a number of COR holders having to draft action plans and those whose PIR rebates are delayed, suggests Wagar, whose association is one of 13 certified partners that jointly issue CORs with the government.
While the stricter guidelines are a step in the right direction, “they are not enough to reduce workplace deaths and injuries,” Gil McGowan, president of the Edmonton-based Alberta Federation of Labour, says in a statement.
Getting Strict with Violators! I do not think so! Here we have the Alberta Construction Safety Association as one of the key companies certifying employers in the COR process. Unbelievable! Of course, the number of construction employers that will be de-certified should not increase. Why would it? That is like a meter maid asked to ticket herself because she was over by a minute. Yeah, that is going to happen! Why would you put the responsibility on those most likely to ignore it? Why would you have a trusted third-party complete an outside audit to determine the actual issues involved.
I have found in the past that most organizations, asked to complete internal discipline, will only give lip service to the ideals. It usually results as business as usual and in this case, can be very dangerous for the worker in Alberta.
Remember – Alberta Health and Safety – An Oxymoron!
Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
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Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.