The CFCSA: sharing construction safety resources and building safety harmonization from the bottom up

As a construction employer, you’ll recognize at least one of these important construction safety organizations helping you to work safer.

But if you printed each of these names on trading cards and sealed them in a wax pack, the wrapper would read “CFCSA: The Canadian Federation of Construction Safety Associations.”

The name may not be familiar to everyone, but as a united umbrella organization, the CFCSA represents a formidable force. The CFCSA shepherds national programs such as the COR® accreditation standard, and the National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO®) and National Health and Safety Administrator (NHSA) designation programs. In addition, the association promotes awareness of construction health and safety practices and programs, facilitates information sharing, and collaboratively produces workplace health and safety training, standards and information resources.

The CFCSA meets annually and the chairperson is typically the head of the construction safety association scheduled to host the next annual meeting. Standing committees meet throughout the year.

Sean Scott, immediate past chair of the CFCSA, notes that the organization takes on the difficult problems of harmonization of safety regulations across the country.

“Construction safety regulations are primarily issued at the provincial or territorial level, so it’s a challenge to get those jurisdictions to harmonize regulations,” says Scott. “As a national organization we look at the large picture and advocate for that type of harmonization, and help our members operating in different provinces to navigate the remaining differences.”

Mike McKenna, executive director of the BC Construction Safety Alliance, notes that the CFCSA has also endorsed a harmonized audit approach for COR® certification. Similarly, a memorandum of understanding between CFCSA members provides a simple path for companies who are COR® certified in their home jurisdiction to apply to have that certification recognized in any other jurisdiction, at no cost. This allows companies to bid on any project requiring COR® certification in a jurisdiction in which they don’t have a permanent base of operations.

“The CFCSA exists to make safety simpler for all of its members,” he says. “There’s a real benefit for employers who work across jurisdictions.”

Jackie Manuel, chief executive officer of the Newfoundland & Labrador Construction Safety Association, says that information sharing between associations provides the greatest benefit to local members.

“The early sharing of COVID-19 resources by larger construction safety associations who had in-house epidemiologists benefitted more than just construction companies here,” she says. “Our website became the go-to source for working during a pandemic for many employers in the province.”

When road contractors were asked to perform night work on a provincial highway project for the first time in the province’s history, Manuel quickly sent out a query to CFCSA members across Canada who already had experience with the practice.

“Safe work practices and procedures related to night work on a highway already existed,” she says. “Our contractors were quickly able to adapt them to their specific circumstances.”

Roy Silliker, CEO of the New Brunswick Construction Safety Association and current CFCSA chair, says that sharing of information resources has helped his organization to stretch its budget.

“One of the biggest benefits is the ability to get materials, programs, and toolbox talks that have been developed in other jurisdictions free of charge,” he says. “That allows associations such as ours to get resources that we may not be able to develop due to lack of funding. Any time we’re looking at doing something new or different we survey our sister associations in the CFCSA to see if they’ve tried it, done it or have materials for us to work with.”

CFCSA member organizations understand that — even if safety regulations aren’t perfectly aligned across all jurisdictions — a fall is a fall wherever it occurs.

“But when CFCSA members talk to each other and share best practices, they tend to become the accepted regulatory standard in each jurisdiction in which they operate,” Scott says. “That helps to build regulatory harmonization from the bottom up.”

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