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Associations, OH&S

Ontario OHS programs pay dividends, contractors told

Don Wall
Ontario OHS programs pay dividends, contractors told
SCREENSHOT—4S health and safety consultants Sobi Ragunathan (bottom) and Addy Yellapantula (top left) hosted a recent webinar on Ontario health and safety financial incentives, accreditation and recognition programs.

Safety pays now more than ever in the construction sector.

That was the message from a presentation on Ontario occupational health and safety (OHS) rebates and incentives hosted by the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) and 4S, an OHS consulting firm.

The online event was titled OHS Roadmap for Accreditation: How Can Employers Optimize their OHS Journey. The webinar served as a relaunch of the complementary programs presented by Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, especially the WSIB’s Health and Safety Excellence program introduced in November 2019.

CPO Ron Kelusky explained the pandemic prevented a robust rollout of the excellence program.

“We all know what happened in March of 2020,” said Kelusky. “I think employers have been spending most of their time hanging on by their fingernails as the economy opened and closed.

“I think it’s really important, kudos to the OGCA, for bringing this topic up again, because coming out of COVID there are some huge opportunities to help your business stay safe.”

The roadmap includes the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s (MLTSD) Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers (SOSE) program, which offers employers accreditation and recognition as well as financial incentives paid out by the WSIB; and the WSIB’s Health and Safety Excellence program, which includes a separate program of rebates.

OGCA director of government relations David Frame noted those incentives can mesh with the long-standing WSIB premium rebates employers are granted for years of safe work.

“Theoretically, you do the Health and Safety Excellence program, you get rebates from that; you get accredited through the Ministry of Labour, SOSE pays out as well; and theoretically your cost performance should be superior, so you should be getting payments back through rate framework as well,” said Frame.

“It pays many dividends.”

SOSE is delivered by the CPO within the MLTSD. Kelusky explained Tony Dean’s report following the swing stage tragedy of 2009 called for the development of a systemic approach to OHS.

“We’re implementing those health and safety management systems,” he said. “That required a 360-degree effort, shall we say, on the employers’ part and the workers’ part to create that communication, that interactivity, the shared responsibility, not simply taking one course and figuring you’re safe.”

Reforms to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2016 gave the CPO the authority to accredit OHS management systems (OHSMS) and recognize employers who had adopted those systems.

Today the CPO recognizes and offers accreditation for four different systems: ISO 45001; CSA Z45001-19; BS OHSAS 18001; and IHSA (Infrastructure Health and Safety Association) Certificate of Recognition (COR) 2020.

IHSA president and CEO Enzo Garritano laid out how those accredited programs align closely with the WSIB’s Excellence program and said as more and more Ontario firms take the step to become accredited, proof of the programs’ effectiveness is revealed through research.

The IHSA, a government-recognized OHS training provider, offers courses in COR and numerous other programs.

“Research programs that UBC has done have demonstrated a 16- to 17-per-cent reduction of serious injuries, in lost-time injuries, in COR companies versus companies who are of like size, like sector, but are not in COR,” said Garritano, noting the IHSA would be conducting Ontario-based research in the near future.

Kate Cowan, an MLTSD training and awareness director, explained employer recognition under SOSE is a five-step process. Employers must implement an accredited OHSMS, be audited by a third party and be recognized by the CPO. Recognition includes a CPO-issued Recognized Safe Employer logo.

Once CPO-accredited standards such as COR are achieved, employers become eligible for the targeted financial incentives offered by the WSIB.

The rewards are based on the size of the firm, a predictability rating the WSIB determines and other factors.

Meanwhile, eligibility for the WSIB’s Health and Safety Excellence program incentives comes from completing a series of training programs called “topics.”

The formula includes a calculation of the previous year’s premiums, the predictability rating and the number of topics completed in addition to the size of the firm.

“Our intent here is to make it easy to work towards accreditation,” said Rod Cook, a WSIB vice-president.

Cook recounted that three employers have earned $115,000 in rebates in total through the SOSE associate program, and $6 million has been paid out with 2,300 companies registered through the excellence program.

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