Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Core of COR (Certificates of Recognition)

The Certificate of Recognition (COR)Program is a relatively new feature of some workers’ compensation / prevention systems. Designed primarily as an incentive for employers to implement and maintain a robust safety and health management system that meets a set of criteria established for the employer’s particular industry, these programs are generally voluntary, time-limited before having to ‘renew’, and involve external audits.

COR programs are offered by several jurisdictions in Canada but I can find little in the way of formal published research on the benefits and costs associated with COR. To complicate matters, there is no ‘standard’ for COR certifications (although some jurisdictions are recognizing CORs from other provinces).

A COR program is usually offered by the agency responsible for prevention and may carry benefits for the firm in terms of lower workers’ compensation premiums. In Alberta, COR is offered by Alberta Employment and Immigration. Firms must undergo an audit by a Certifying partner. Qualifying firms are expected to achieve a pass on every element in the audit and an overall score of 80% or better. The elements examined relate to the Health and Safety Management System.

The Yukon and Nova Scotia have introduced programs under the name COR. Many larger firms use COR as a pre-requisite for subcontractors and providers

In British Columbia, a COR program is offered by WorkSafeBC. Certifying Partners offer audits but the goal goes beyond meeting required OH&S primary prevention standards. The COR program in BC recognizes and rewards employers who go beyond the legal requirements of the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation by taking a best practices approach to implementing health and safety management systems. Firms who also meet standards for return-to-work (RTW)/Disability Management programs can obtain an additional rebate. Achieving COR status for both area can net the employer a 15% rebate on premiums.

In WorkSafeBC’s case, the benefits to the employers who qualify for COR go beyond the rebate. Theoretically, these employers should have fewer defects in their safety programs, fewer violations of safe work procedures, and lower costs associated with work-related injuries. Workers in such firms theoretically benefit from safer workplaces, strong adherence to safe work procedures by co-workers and other persons in the workplace, and improved prospects for a safe and durable return to work. The COR certification may also give qualifying firms an advantage in competitive bid processes.

As I said, there is little in the way of formal peer-reviewed research on the benefits of any COR system currently in place. One administrative review was recently conducted by the Auditor General of Alberta. The AG found:

Half of those employers that persistently fail to comply with the OHS Act also continue to hold a valid Certificate of Recognition (COR), 4 and continue to have elevated injury rates among their workers. In short, although these employers do not comply with OHS orders, and their workers are much more likely to get injured on the job, these employers continue to receive Partners in Injury Reduction financial rebates and use their COR to bid on contracts with major companies in such industries as construction, and oil and gas.

As more COR programs are established and have had time to operate for several years, more independent formal research will tell us if these programs are yielding their planned benefits for workers and employers.

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