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City of Toronto to clarify safety system language in procurement policy

Angela Gismondi
City of Toronto to clarify safety system language in procurement policy

The City of Toronto will be changing the wording in its construction procurement policy to make it more clear what accredited safety systems will be accepted, thereby making the language less confusing for construction companies who are looking to bid on projects.

Kevin Brown of Cobalt Safety Consulting recently expressed concerns about the language in the city’s current Request for Tender (RFT) documents, saying it is confusing and specifically mentions the COR (Certificate of Recognition) safety system but doesn’t mention any other Ministry of Labour accredited programs.

“Mayor Olivia Chow and the city council need to take immediate action to revise the language in their bidding processes and contracts, both on their official websites and within the contracts themselves,” states a LinkedIn post by Brown.

“The current procurement approach is not only confusing but also appears to unintentionally give preference to companies certified under the COR brand while neglecting the highly esteemed and globally recognized ISO 45001 standard.”

Brown conducted an informal, online survey on LinkedIn asking, “To lower building costs should the City of Toronto open its bidding process to Ministry of Labour accredited systems?”

The response was over 80 per cent yes, which included many CEO and executives.

“The City of Toronto in their procurement language was stating COR or equivalent,” explained Brown, who is also a former Ministry of Labour inspector. “But when it came to procurement, a lot of companies were getting confused because there are other systems for safety and they weren’t sure…I get calls and requests, ‘Is this program OK? The City of Toronto says I have to have this.’”

The new wording will make it clear to companies that ISO 45001 is among the accredited programs accepted by the city for construction projects.

The city plans to finalize updates to the language in the first quarter of 2024, a spokesperson wrote in an email to the Daily Commercial News.

“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,” stated the spokesperson.

Brown said the city’s decision is a win for safety, will eliminate confusion and create more competition. He said he advocated for removing all brand names and supporting the Ministry of Labour’s accredited programs. This allows companies to choose a health and safety management system that best fits their organization.

“It’s on the employers to choose a system that is right for the business, not to be hampered in their bidding process because they’ve chosen a system that may not be specified,” Brown said.

“If you specify the brand COR or equivalent, it’s hard to understand what is equivalent to that. I actually was advocating for no brand name in the contract language…It should actually say ‘any ministry accredited safety system.’”

Brown said he commends the city for the move and hopes it will be in place by the New Year.

“It allows more companies to bid on Toronto’s projects, opens up and clarifies the safety language within the procurement system,” he said. “I hope other municipalities and organizations follow the same suit as the city.”

The City of Toronto has recognized various ISO certifications as an alternative to the COR certification for many years, however, it must meet equivalency to the COR 2020 review standard, said David Frame, executive director of the League of Champions.

“The only change that the city is making is that they are now going to communicate the option to bidders,” he explained. “As I understand the application will still be required to demonstrate that the ISO 45001 audit meets equivalency to the COR standard. The IHSA has developed a guideline for this review and will conduct the evaluation upon request.”

A company electing to use 45001 needs to recognize the program must meet the equivalency requirements “in that it includes the insignia of an accreditation body that is recognized by the international accreditation forum, and demonstrates that its Ontario based operations were captured in the audit scope.”

“A 45001 audited program may or may not meet the city’s standard,” Frame added. “It needs to meet a high bar to do so.”

In an IHSA podcast, Elias Rafoul, vice president of accreditation services with the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), said the SCC would advise any Canadian company to prioritize accredited certificates over unaccredited ones.

“I really want to emphasize that accredited certificates are widely recognized and accepted because through accreditation the certification bodies that issue them are thoroughly assessed to make sure they demonstrate a commitment to quality impartiality and compliance with standards,” Rafoul said.

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela

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