Workplace Safety is the missing puzzle to business success

A Comprehensive Comparison Between COR and ISO Average Read Time - 10 min

The dynamic world of business is always in pursuit of excellence and efficiency and any organization seeking sustainable growth places excellence as its top priority. But how does one achieve these goals? Businesses often turn to internationally recognized management systems that provide structure, guidelines, and a framework for continual improvement. Two such critical systems that have garnered widespread adoption are ISO and COR™.

The International Organization for Standardization or ISO is a renowned non-governmental organization that develops and publishes a diverse range of international standards. These standards span various industries, covering quality management, environmental responsibility, information security, and more. 
On the other hand, Certificate of Recognition or COR™, primarily applicable in Canada, focuses on health and safety management, with a strong emphasis on meeting the national standards. The COR™ program primarily targets the construction industry but has expanded its scope to encompass other sectors as well encouraging organizations to establish comprehensive safety protocols to protect their workers.
While both systems share the common objective of enhancing organizational performance and compliance, they differ significantly in scope, applicability, and the outcomes they deliver.
This article presents a comprehensive comparison between the two, shedding light on the distinctive features, advantages, and relevance to different industries. Exploring the unique strengths of each system, organizations can make informed decisions on the approach which aligns best with their specific needs and objectives.

What is ISO and why is it used?

Founded in 1947, the International Organization for Standardization is a globally recognized non-governmental organization that develops and publishes international standards. These standards aim to ensure quality, safety, and efficiency in various sectors, including manufacturing, services, technology, and more. 
ISO has devised a vast array of management system standards which provide organizations with a framework for systematic processes, best practices, and continual improvement. These ISO compliance standards are voluntary, but many organizations seek certification to demonstrate their commitment to best practices, quality, safety, and environmental responsibility. 


What are ISO compliance standards?

ISO compliance standards refer to a series of internationally recognized standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization. ISO compliance standards cover a wide range of topics and industries, allowing organizations to establish and maintain high levels of quality, safety, efficiency, and environmental responsibility.
Some of the most well-known ISO compliance standards include:

  • ISO 9001: Quality Management System (QMS)
  • ISO 14001: Environmental Management System (EMS)
  • ISO 27001: Information Security Management System (ISMS)
  • ISO 45001: Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Management System
  • ISO 22000: Food Safety Management System
  • ISO 50001: Energy Management System
  • ISO 26000: Social Responsibility
  • ISO 31000: Risk Management
  • ISO 22301: Business Continuity Management System (BCMS)
  • ISO 13485: Medical Devices Quality Management System


What does ISO mean in Occupational Health and Safety?

In Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S), ISO specifically refers to the ISO 45001 standard. ISO 45001 is the globally recognized standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OH&SMS). It provides a framework that organizations can follow to proactively manage the health and safety risks associated with their operations, ensuring the well-being of employees and other stakeholders.
The ISO 45001 standard was developed to replace the previous OHSAS 18001 standard and was published in March 2018. It applies to all types of organizations, regardless of their size, industry, or location, and is designed to be integrated into an organization's overall management system.
Achieving ISO 45001 certification involves a comprehensive audit process conducted by an accredited certification body. The audit assesses the organization's compliance with the standard's requirements and its ability to manage OH&S risks effectively.


Is ISO compliance mandatory?

ISO compliance is not mandatory by law and organizations are not legally obligated to become ISO compliant or seek ISO certification. However, ISO compliance can be required or expected in certain situations such as 

  • Contractual requirements where clients, customers, or business partners may require organizations to be ISO compliant or certified as a condition for doing business.
  • Regulatory compliance to align with or complement certain legal requirements in specific industries or regions.
  • Public and Government Tenders where ISO certification may be specified as a preferred qualification or a competitive advantage.
  • Industry Best Practices to enhance their performance, efficiency, and reputation.
  • Customer Expectations reflecting a commitment to quality, safety, and environmental responsibility.


Is ISO recognized in Canada?

Yes, ISO standards are widely recognized and used in Canada. These standards are adopted and implemented by various industries and organizations across the country and provide valuable guidelines, best practices, and requirements to help Canadian businesses improve their processes, enhance quality, safety, and environmental responsibility, and achieve international recognition for their standards and practices.
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is the national member body representing Canada at the ISO. The CSA collaborates with industry experts, government agencies, and stakeholders to ensure that Canadian interests and needs are represented in the international standardization process. Government agencies, industry associations, and private organizations also often refer to ISO standards when developing regulations or industry-specific guidelines.


How does a company get ISO certified?

ISO certification is typically obtained through an independent certification body that audits an organization's processes and confirms its compliance with the relevant standard's requirements. 


What is COR™ and why is it used?

Certificate of Recognition is an occupational safety and health accreditation program that is used to verify a fully implemented safety and health management system meeting the national standards. The objective of the standards is to provide industry employers with effective tools to develop, implement, assess, and promote continuous improvement of their health and safety management system and prevent or mitigate OHS lapses.
COR™ is nationally registered, trademarked and endorsed by the Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associationst (CFCSA) and focuses on health and safety management, encouraging organizations to establish comprehensive safety protocols to protect their workers. 


What are COR™ compliance standards?

The COR™ compliance standards may vary slightly from province to province, as different provincial or territorial safety associations administer the program. However, the fundamental principles and criteria are generally consistent across jurisdictions. Some common elements across all provinces for COR™ compliance standards include:

  • Written Health and Safety Policy
  • Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
  • Health and Safety Training
  • Incident Reporting and Investigation
  • Safety Inspections and Audits
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Return-to-Work Programs
  • Joint Health and Safety Committees


What does COR™ mean in Occupational Health and Safety?

The COR™ program is a voluntary occupational health and safety accreditation program that is primarily used in Canada, though some other countries may have similar programs under different names. The COR™ program aims to promote and recognize excellence in workplace health and safety management within the construction industry and related sectors.
The program is known for its rigorous evaluation process and commitment to continuous improvement in workplace safety. Participating in the COR™ program can benefit organizations by reducing workplace incidents, lowering insurance costs, and enhancing their reputation for safety excellence within the industry.
It is typically administered by provincial or territorial safety associations, and these organizations develop and oversee the program's implementation to ensure consistent and effective safety standards in workplaces.
Read more about the benefits of COR certification in Ontario.


Is COR™ compliance mandatory?

The COR™ program is voluntary in most jurisdictions; however, several provinces in Canada have made COR™ certification a mandatory/preferred requirement for participating in certain government contracts, public tenders, or specific industries. The specific requirements for mandatory COR™ certification may vary from province to province and can be subject to change based on government policies and regulations. Although the COR™ compliance standards may vary slightly from province to province, the fundamental principles and criteria are generally consistent across jurisdictions. It can also be referred to as a Business Strategy
Organizations should stay informed about local regulations and contractual requirements to determine whether COR™ certification is mandatory for their operations.


How does a company get COR™ certified?

In Ontario, COR™ is a three-year certification provided by the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) after the successful completion of internal and external audits. 


Do small businesses need ISO or COR™ certification?

The need for ISO/COR™ certification for small businesses depends on various factors, including the industry they operate in, their customer requirements, regulatory considerations, and their specific business goals. Although these certifications are not mandatory for any organization, regardless of its size, including small businesses, they can offer several benefits. 
The decision to pursue depends on the business's unique needs, industry requirements, and long-term objectives. Small businesses should weigh the costs and benefits and consider consulting with industry peers, experts, or certification bodies to make an informed decision. 
In addition, smaller organizations can also expand their market opportunities and gain access to a national/global market with these certifications. 


Factors to consider while choosing certification for your Occupational Health and Safety 

Industry Requirements: Determine if your industry or the specific projects you undertake have any specific requirements or preferences for either ISO 45001 or COR. Some industries may favor one over the other due to historical practices or regulatory considerations.
Legislation and Regulatory Compliance: Check the legal requirements in your region or country related to occupational health and safety management systems. Both ISO 45001 and COR may have different levels of recognition and acceptance depending on the regulatory environment.

Scope and Coverage: Consider the scope and coverage of each system. ISO 45001 is an internationally recognized standard that covers general occupational health and safety management, while COR is more specific to certain regions or industries and may focus on specific practices.

Implementation Complexity: Assess the level of effort and complexity required for implementing each system. ISO 45001 certification typically involves a comprehensive approach to risk assessment and management, while COR may have more specific requirements for practices.

Costs: Evaluate the costs associated with achieving and maintaining either ISO 45001 certification or COR. This includes costs for training, consulting, audits, and ongoing compliance.

Recognition and Reputation: Consider the recognition and reputation associated with each certification. ISO 45001 is globally recognized and may be more valued in international markets, while COR may carry more weight in specific regional or industry contexts.

Employee and Stakeholder Engagement: Engage with your employees and stakeholders to understand their perspectives and preferences. Involving them in the decision-making process can increase buy-in and the likelihood of successful implementation.

Continuous Improvement: Evaluate the focus on continuous improvement in each system. Both ISO 45001 and COR emphasize the need for ongoing improvement in occupational health and safety, but they may have different approaches to achieving it.

Integration with Existing Systems: If you have other management systems in place, consider how well ISO 45001 or COR can integrate with them. Harmonizing multiple systems can lead to efficiency gains and improved overall performance.

Long-Term Strategy: Consider your organization's long-term strategy and goals related to health and safety. Choose the system that aligns better with your objectives and supports your organization's growth.


Infographic on the different Health and Safety Programs

Both ISO and COR™ are essential management systems that facilitate continuous improvement, compliance, and optimization within organizations. ISO's broad range of internationally recognized standards addresses various aspects of an organization's management, while COR™'s specialized focus on health and safety management makes it an invaluable tool, particularly for the construction industry in Canada. 
When choosing between ISO and COR™, organizations must consider their specific needs, industry, and the outcomes they aim to achieve. Implementing ISO standards can lead to enhanced overall organizational performance and global recognition, while achieving COR™ certification emphasizes the commitment to employee welfare and safety.

As part of the 4S support program for ISO 45001 and COR™, we assign a dedicated project team to work with you towards achieving your goals. Contact us now to learn more.

LinkedIn Facebook Twitter
Get in touch