WCB Alberta's Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program promotes workplace health and safety through partnerships with employers, safety organizations, industry groups, educational organizations and labour organizations. For companies that develop a health and safety management system in accordance with established standards, PIR awards a Certificate of Recognition (COR), and COR-certified companies are then eligible for up to 20% off of their Alberta-WCB premiums.
Although it's a voluntary program, the Alberta COR has become a pre-bid qualification on an increasing number of projects in the construction and petroleum industries, and companies without COR certification therefore miss out on valuable job opportunities. Employers that are not COR holders are also ineligible to receive the annual Partners in Injury Reduction (PIR) rebates from WCB Alberta.
Ongoing stakeholder reviews of the PIR program have led to the recent imposition of stricter guidelines for COR-certified companies. In particular, an enhanced employer review process widens the range of incidents that can result in such a review, expands the current investigation procedures, and imposes more serious consequences on COR holders not meeting requirements.
As of July 1, 2011, the PIR program launched a more stringent employer review process in light of certain workplace incidents. An employer review may occur for companies that experience either an on-site (work-related) fatality or a serious workplace injury or illness. An employer review may also be imposed on companies that have been issued two or more stop work orders in a twelve-month period, as well as those companies with ongoing Alberta OH&S officer activity, which indicates possible workplace health and safety concerns.
Under the enhanced review process, any company that undergoes a formal review must develop an action plan to address the issues and improve the state of the workplace. If a second incident occurs within two years, the COR holder must then undergo an external audit. Failure to develop a sufficient action plan, or failure to pass the audit with a score of at least 80%, will result in the cancellation of the company's COR certification. If a COR holder is charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or if a COR holder's certification is under review, WCB Alberta will withhold any refunds for that year, pending the outcome of the related charge or review.
It is important to note that although guidelines are stricter, each incident will be evaluated too see if it meets the requirements for a formal review. For incidents that involve a non-occupational medical condition (such as a heart attack), a formal review does not occur and there is no threat of COR revocation. The formal review process is also waived when an incident involves either a non-occupational motor vehicle death or when the incident involves an occupational disease that results from employer actions prior to the company's COR achievement.
While this initiative is geared at encouraging even greater diligence and compliance from COR holders, critics wonder if the measures are enough to result in any major change. While the imposition on COR holders is stricter once an incident occurs, it is still up to each employer - and each of their workers in turn - to take all the appropriate measures to avoid such incidents entirely. Only time will tell what affect these greater expectations and outcomes will yield, but it can certainly be said that the presence and initiatives of organizations such as PIR can only serve to constantly reinforce the notion of workplace safety, not only to workers but to the public as a whole.
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