March 16, 2009
Occupational Health and Safety
Merger possible for British Columbia construction safety associations
Neither trade contractors nor general contractors are likely to question the importance of jobsite safety.
It is at the top of the list of things with which every contractor must deal.
The B.C. construction industry is unusual because it has two, rather than one safety association.
That may change within the next 18 to 24 months.
Senior spokespeople for both associations agreed it would make sense to have one large group.
They also said that talks are ongoing.
In addition the two associations have already begun co-operating on several projects including a common safety program for small contractors.
One of the associations, the Construction Safety Association of British Columbia, is the child of the Council of Construction Associations (COCA), which includes 17 construction associations from all sectors.
The B.C. Construction Association is the largest member association.
It includes 2,000 companies province-wide and is open to both union and open shop contractors.
The second group, the Construction Safety Network, covers an array of associations including the high-profile Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, a lobby voice for the open-shop sector of the industry.
It also embraces the B.C. Ready-Mixed Concrete Association, the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association, the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association and the Aggregate Producers Association.
At the heart of each is the COR program developed by WorkSafeBC, with the encouragement of COCA.
This is the program that allows construction companies to earn Certificates of Recognition (COR).
These in turn can lead to a 10 per cent rebate in the fees a company must pay WorkSafeBC.
Obviously, this can quickly mount up to serious dollars.
A further five per cent rebate is available to firms with an approved return to work program.
Cathy Lange is the executive director of the Construction Safety Association of B.C.
The COR training offered by her group is very similar to the training offered by the Construction Safety Network.
“We’re looking at harmonizing our two programs,” she said.
“Our COR program consists of a half day course for owners, a two-day course for supervisors, a two-day auditor training course, a half-day worker course and a one-day elective. If a company has 20 or more employees a minimum of three will be trained.”
In the first year, a firm that size will require an external safety audit. After that, it can depend on its internal auditor for the next two years.
A recent development is a course for companies that have fewer than 20 employees. It is a two-day course that involves one day of classroom training and one day of online training. This is the program that was developed in co-operation with the Construction Safety Network.
Training sessions are not handled by either association in-house. They approve instructors who teach classes somewhere convenient for employers. Often they are held in construction association facilities.
The Construction Safety Network is headed by Stephen Torrence, chief executive officer, who agreed that talks towards a merger make sense.
In addition to offering the COR program, it also has a wide variety of industry-specific resources for its different members.
Torrence pointed out the needs of a road builder will be very different from those of a home builder.
Those resources may be printed material, video presentations or classroom instruction.
Both Torrence and Lange are strong advocates for return to work programs.
These can involve many different activities.
One of the more common is finding alternate employment within a company for someone who may not be able to immediately return to his own trade.
“The longer someone is off work the less likely it is he will ever return,” said Lange.
Both of them pointed out that the costs involved with an injured worker can be substantial and are passed on to the employer.
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