A new study finds the Certificate of Recognition (COR) certification leads to safer workplaces and a reduction in injury rates in Ontario.
Christopher McLeod, associate professor at the University of British Columbia, and his research team explored the impact COR has on injury rates in Ontario. McLeod presented the preliminary findings during his presentation, Does COR certification in Ontario lead to safer workplaces? at the Ontario General Contractors Association’s annual Leadership Day, held May 6 in Vaughan, Ont.
The first objective of the study, funded by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), was determine if COR is associated with lower firm-level injury rates when compared to similar firms.
“We want to know whether or not once a company goes through and becomes certified with COR do they become a safer company,” said McLeod.
“With lost time claims, which typically is the measure that firms and the compensation board and everyone really focuses on, COR firms improved their injury performance by about 28 per cent compared to non-COR certified firms.”
He said once the program matures and you get more firms in there and get away from the early adopter effect, that number might change further.
Thirty per cent is a significant reduction, McLeod added.
In B.C. and Alberta, it’s about a 10 per cent reduction; Saskatchewan a 20 per cent reduction; and Ontario, 30 per cent reduction,
— Christopher McLeod
University of British Columbia
“Anytime we can see something that has that level of effectiveness from a safety perspective, that’s something that we really need to think about. How we can sustain it as well as thinking about how we might want to expand its reach.”
Most companies are large and medium sized businesses.
“In that COR group of construction companies, we are seeing robust safety effects for both medium sized and large firms,” added McLeod, adding not enough data is available from small firms to evaluate its effectiveness.
McLeod, who is also head of the Occupational and Environmental Health Division at UBC’s School of Population, conducted similar evaluations in other provinces including British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Across Canada COR, in most contexts, leads to safer workplaces,” said McLeod. “We are seeing a consistent safety effect of COR in every jurisdiction.
“In B.C. and Alberta, it’s about a 10 per cent reduction; Saskatchewan a 20 per cent reduction; and Ontario, 30 per cent reduction.”
The first objective of the study was to determine if COR is associated with lower firm-level injury rates when compared to similar firms. Researchers studied 346 COR firms matched to 310 comparable non-COR firms from 2012 to 2019.
“We really spent the time to ensure that we identified similar firms who were really the best comparators so that we were able to compare their experience over the same period of time to firms that didn’t choose to participate in the program,” said McLeod. “That’s an important methodological element because it really changes the interpretation of the study from just saying ‘we saw differences’ to being able to attribute those differences to the participation in COR certification.”
The percentage decrease is larger in Ontario and there may be a couple reasons for that, McLeod added.
“One of the reasons is that Ontario construction firms as a whole have lower injury rates than construction firms in western Canadian provinces,” he said.
“That basically means that if you start at a relatively low rate a similar reduction in injury rates is actually going to lead to a greater percentage.”
A few of the factors explaining the provincial differences is the financial incentives to participate in COR, availability of COR for small firms and the audit tool.
The second objective of the study was to examine the association between the COR audit scores and element scores with firm-level injury rates.
Some of the most significant elements include investigations and reporting, hazard assessment analysis and control also having safe work practices and procedures.
In conclusion, McLeod pointed out COR-certified firms are different than average construction firms in the province.
“They are significantly larger than the average construction firm in Ontario,” said McLeod, adding medium size and small construction firms are much less likely to have sought COR certification.
“I think where there is area for future opportunity in terms of safety in Ontario, is to think about how do we successfully or effectively expand the success that we’ve seen in COR to date to construction firms that are perhaps dissimilar, smaller firms, firms that are more likely to be coming from residential construction rather than infrastructure.
“In order to continue to see an effectiveness of COR and expand it further we’ve got to be sensitive to those differences…Some thought needs to be given to what that looks like in terms of that success.”
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