Starting January 2020, the City of Brampton will require all vendors bidding on the city’s construction contracts valued between $10 million and $25 million to be COR certified.
The city is using a tiered approach to adopting the Certificate of Recognition (COR) standard.
In 2017, the city announced it was going to require all vendors bidding on city contracts valued over $25 million to be COR certified starting January 2019 as part of its construction contract management and tendering process. In January 2021, the city is planning to require a company to be COR certified when working on projects under $10 million.
“What we are finding is that more and more the municipalities are being held liable for the contractors they hire,” said Jayne Holmes, director, capital works, public works and engineering for the City of Brampton.
“When we looked at COR, it seemed to cover all the elements that were important to us. It isn’t a guarantee that nothing bad isn’t going to happen but it does indicate that there is a certain level of competence when it comes to safety when you are hiring somebody who is COR certified.”
COR is a comprehensive health and safety audit tool. It is an accredited certification program that started over 20 years ago in Alberta and gained traction in Ontario in the past decade.
In Ontario, certification is granted by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), which is also responsible for certifying contractors in the province’s construction industry.
It really holds you accountable and you have to work to maintain it. It gives you comfort,
— Jayne Holmes
City of Brampton
“There are two components to it: the measuring stick is the COR audit tool but the most important part is what the employer does with policies and practices, procedures, processes, it is really ensuring that all of that documentation is compliant with current legislation and then having a good accounting of their hazards and associated risks and then really rolling that all out,” said Ken Rayner, vice-president, customer relations, market development and labour relations at IHSA.
Currently there are 375 companies that are COR certified and about 1,300 working towards certification, Rayner noted, adding there are six to eight municipalities that are expected to make announcements in the next 12 to 18 months.
“Municipalities and big organizations that do a lot of construction are really adopting the COR standard which is great because what that does is it normalizes it,” said Holmes.
“When you’re asking for something that’s a little different than what everyone else is asking for it tends to shrink your market but now that a lot of us are asking for it, it makes the industry as a whole a lot safer.”
There is also a recognition of the benefit for the city, the industry, staff and residents, Holmes explained.
“You have a third party that tells you that the vendors you are hiring are meeting the health and safety regulations,” said Holmes.
“It really holds you accountable and you have to work to maintain it. It gives you comfort in knowing that the vendors you are hiring take health and safety seriously and they’re committed to it and it’s not just for their staff it’s for our staff and residents.”
In speaking with other buyers of construction who have successfully implemented COR, Rayner said the biggest piece of advice is to give a lot of notice before requiring it.
“Any of the buyers that we are working with today that are contemplating moving formally to supporting the COR program and making it a requirement, we are telling them err on the side of caution and make that first requirement three years, even if you’re going to start at the $25-million threshold,” said Rayner. “There is no downside to giving more notice.”
The City of Brampton was also one of the first municipalities in Ontario to announce that in addition to requiring COR, the city itself would become COR certified.
“The reason we decided to do that is because we wanted to walk the talk,” said Holmes. “The vendors themselves were asking ‘if COR is so great why aren’t you doing it?’ We wanted to show that we also believed in it.”
It has taken longer for the city to get certified as it is a large organization with many employees who all need to get on the same page in order to be certified.
“We are still working away at it but we expect that maybe next year we can start auditing to see if we can become COR certified,” said Holmes.
“We are getting through all the different elements and get ourselves in order. It’s changed the way we do our work in terms of always looking at it from a safety first point of view. It’s been a positive thing for us.”
Follow Angela Gismondi on Twitter @DCN_ Angela.