I attended an ISNetworld users group meeting a few years back in Estevan, Saskatchewan, that was hosted by Enbridge Pipelines. It was my first exposure to the conflict that is shaping up between ISNetworld and various industry associations in Canada, including Enform and a number of provincial Construction Safety Associations.
I use the word "conflict" because it is not a battle that is being waged openly between the two sides. Rather it a contest that has developed because both parties are attempting to occupy the same role: the organization that sets standards for safety management. It would appear, at first glance anyway, that the clash came about entirely by accident...
Decades ago, the various industry organizations in Canada developed a set of standards for a Basic Safety Program and set audit criteria in order to achieve a safety "Certificate of Recognition". Many contractors follow the Enform industry recommended practice (IRP 9) and have obtained their COR.
More recently, ISNetworld built an online database to share contractor and supplier safety information with "owner clients", which are essentially large companies that operate facilities and require the services of the contractors and suppliers. The ISNetworld application has evolved, partly to satisfy customer requests, and partly to differentiate themselves from other contractor safety management databases, like Canada HSE Registry. Their service model is essentially based on "pre-qualifying" contractors for the various owner clients. In order to obtain efficiencies, it made sense to develop a single set of safety program criteria, or "protocols" (at least for each type of work). Hence the conflict with the aforementioned "Basic Safety Program" standards. ISNetworld also realized that for each owner-client to review every contractor's protocols would be prohibitively time consuming and expensive, so they now offer their "Review and Verification Service" or RAVS for short. Although not identical, there are obvious overlaps between a COR audit and RAVS.
Three contractors complained loudly at the ISNetworldTM users group meeting about the redundancy between the two programs. Many others in attendance nodded their heads in agreement. They wondered why a Certificate of Recognition would not satisfy RAVS. Hats off to the ISNetworld presenter, Catherine Kirkwood, who diffused the tension by pointing out that the Certificate of Recognition could be uploaded into the ISNetworld database, and that compliance with a Basic Safety Program would surely make compliance with RAVS that much easier. ISNetworld may acknowledge and track Certificates of Recognition, but they have yet to provide exemptions for equivalent protocols accordingly. Meanwhile, Enform seems intent on standing behind their IRP 9. In fact, they are currently in the process of revamping "Basic Safety Program", and rebranding the enhanced requirements as "Health and Safety Management System".
Both organizations should be commended for their efforts. They are both raising the bar for employee health and safety at thousands of contractor companies in Canada. Perhaps some day, one of the two systems will emerge as the clear leader, with the trailer eventually forced to adopt the other's standards in the name of consistency and efficiency. Meanwhile contractors scramble to satisfy both systems, which is a blessing for us here at SAFETYSYNC, because I am told our online safety management tools help ensure 100% compliance.