New program puts onus for safety on contractors

Contractors working for the Yukon government will soon need a new safety certification. However, the requirement has nothing to do with the botched…

Contractors working for the Yukon government will soon need a new safety certification.

However, the requirement has nothing to do with the botched blasting near Lobird Rd. on May 6, said representatives.

The standard, called COR (certificate of recognition), assists companies to develop in-house safety procedures and standardized training.

COR is designed to “promote economic success while preventing losses, both human and financial,” said Paul Smythe of the Northern Safety Network, which administers the certification process.

“We’re looking at this initiative as yet another tool in the toolbox to focus on safety. What we hope to see is that COR-certified companies will actually take their safe practices to other clients, whether or not they’re working for the Yukon,” said Mike Johnson, deputy minister for Highways and Public Works.

“Proactive management of safety will prevent every injury and every incident that we currently see in the workplace.

“I challenge anyone to give me an example of one that wasn’t preventable,” said Kurt Dieckmann of the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

After completing set training courses and developing in-house safety programs, COR-certified companies receive a comprehensive audit that includes policy analysis, workplaces inspections and employee interviews.

“A company is really scrutinized before they get this certification,” said Darrell Stone of the Yukon Contractors Association.

COR companies are also subject to a yearly audit.

For almost three years, COR certification has been a requirement for Whitehorse contracts.

“(The city) was first out of the gate, they set a great example, and I’m glad to see YTG getting on board,” said Dieckmann.

Rather than a reaction to the Lobird incident, the new requirement has been a “long time coming.”

“We couldn’t have put this together in just two weeks,” said Johnson.

However, the company responsible for the Lobird incident, Sidhu Trucking, was not COR certified.

Only 19 companies in the Yukon are COR certified, but 124 companies are currently in different stages of the certification process.

The Yukon has arguably lagged behind the southern provinces in adopting the requirement.

“It’s probably taken a while longer in the Yukon, but this is the Yukon, and it does take a little while for things to move to the North,” said Dieckmann.

The certification is already widely required throughout BC and Alberta.

COR certification obtained in the Yukon will be fully transferable to any other territory or province, said Dieckmann.

The Yukon COR requirement will be implemented in three phases.

By January 2009, it will be required for all construction projects over $500,000, and by 2010, for all contracts over $100,000.

By 2011, COR will be required for contracts of any value.

While companies will incur expense for the training and certification process, the cost will easily be saved in injury and accident prevention, said Johnson.

“Reducing workplace accidents and injuries always reduces human and financial costs right across the line.”

Since January, 619 workplace injuries have been reported in the Yukon.