Certificate of Recognition (COR) audit program

In brief

  • Occupational health and safety interventions, including regulatory approaches, programs, and management systems, are key strategies for reducing worker injury and illness.
  • Certificate of Recognition (COR) audit programs use voluntary audit-based certification as a way of recognizing or encouraging effective OHS practices. COR programs provide premium rebates to employers who meet certain occupational health and safety management benchmarks or who have implemented a return to work program for injured workers.
  • We conducted independent impact evaluations of the COR programs in BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to assess how participation has affected firms’ injury rates and health and safety experience. All three evaluations found that certification is associated with lower injury rates. The consistent results across all three provinces support the conclusion that COR certification is associated with reductions in firm-level injury rates. However, the strength of this association is dependent on context, such as firm, industry, certifying partner, and audit tool.
  • We conducted additional evaluations in BC, of the COR audit tool used in the construction sector, and of the Return to Work COR Program.


Key findings

In BC
  • In BC, COR certification was associated with a reduction in both STD, LTD and fatalities and serious injuries for most industrial sectors, and this effect was greater in more recent years.
  • We also worked with the BC Construction Safety Alliance and WorkSafeBC to assess the measurement properties of the specific COR audit tool used in the BC construction sector and identify the elements of the audit that are most predictive of firm work injury rates, with the goal of improving the design, delivery, and effectiveness of the COR program.
  • Scores on the BC Construction Safety Alliance audit tool were high and there was little variation for some elements. A subset of audit elements, including workplace hazard assessment and control, training and communication, and investigations and reporting were associated with variation in the overall score and were strong predictors of firm injury rates. Additionally, we identified 21 sub-elements that collectively best predicted firm injury rates.
  • We also conducted an evaluation of WorkSafeBC’s Return to Work COR program, an additional certification that firms already holding COR certification could earn prior to 2012, and found that this additional certification does not appear to provide any additional benefit on disability duration (time to return to work after injury), compared to regular COR.
  • While the Return to Work COR program has been successful in encouraging firms to offer graduated or modified return to work to injured workers, modified return to work is becoming more common over time in all COR-certified firms, thus the effect of additional certification has diminished over time.

In Alberta
  • In Alberta, our findings were generally consistent with BC, with COR certification associated with reductions in most injury rates, with the exception that SECOR (small COR) firms had no reduction in injury rate.

In Saskatchewan
  • In Saskatchewan, our findings were consistent with BC and Alberta in showing that COR certification was associated with a reduction in time loss injuries but the overall effect was primarily driven by firms certified by the Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association, particularly those certified in more recent years, that were small (less than 20 FTEs), and certified under the standard COR program, not SECOR.

Read about the results of our COR audit evaluations in BC and Alberta in the Institute for Work & Health At Work newsletter in Fall 2019.

Watch a slidecast of Chris McLeod presenting the results of our COR audit evaluations in BC and Alberta at the Institute for Work & Health Speaker Series in November 2019.

Watch an interview with Chris McLeod, filmed by the Journal of Commerce at the BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association Fall Conference 2015, on the results of the COR evaluation.


Related publications

An audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program: Is COR associated with lower firm-level injury rates in Saskatchewan?

Research brief. Full reports available by request. Based on research presented in:
Macpherson R, Fan J, Peck H, McLeod C. Is COR associated with lower firm-level injury rates in Saskatchewan? Final Report to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board. Vancouver, BC: Partnership for Work, Health and Safety, University of British Columbia; 2021.

Is the Return to Work Certificate of Recognition Program associated with improved outcomes?

Research brief. Full report available by request. Based on research presented in:
McLeod CB, McLeod KV, Tamburic L, Maas ET. Is the Return to Work Certificate of Recognition Program associated with improved outcomes? Final Report to WorkSafeBC; 2020.

Performance of the COR® audit in BC construction firms: Do higher scores predict lower injury rates?

Research brief. Full reports available by request. Based on research presented in:

McLeod C, Saffari N, Cliff R, Jones A. Assessment of the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance Certificate of Recognition audit score measurement properties. Final Report to WorkSafeBC and the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance; 2020.

McLeod C, Yousefi M, Jones A. (2020). What occupational health and safety management system components predict firm injury rates in the British Columbia construction industry? Assessing the predictive validity of the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance’s Certificate of Recognition Audit Tool. Final Report to the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance. Vancouver: Partnership for Work, Health and Safety; 2020.

An audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program: Does certification lead to lower firm work-injury rates in BC?

Research brief. Full report available by request.
Based on research presented in McLeod C, Quirke W, McLeod K, Aderounmu A. Evaluating the effect of an audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program on firm work-injury rates in British Columbia, Canada, 2003-2016: a matched difference-in-difference approach. Final Report to WorkSafeBC. Vancouver: Partnership for Work, Health and Safety; 2019.

An audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program: Is certification associated with lower firm work-injury rates in Alberta?

Research brief. Full report available by request.
Based on research presented in McLeod C, Macpherson R, Quirke W, Koehoorn M, Aderounmu A. Is COR associated with lower firm-level injury rates? An evaluation of the effect of an audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program on firm work-injury rates in Alberta, Canada. Final Report to Alberta Ministry of Labour. Vancouver: Partnership for Work, Health and Safety, University of BC.

An audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program: Is certification associated with lower firm work-injury rates?

Research brief. Full report available by request.
Based on research presented in McLeod C, Quirke W, Koehoorn M. Evaluation of the effect of an audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program on firm work-injury rates in British Columbia, Canada. Final Report to WorkSafeBC. Vancouver: Partnership for Work, Health and Safety; 2015.

Contact: Chris McLeod

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