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Manitoba Heavy Construction Association

  • Double the demand for COR certification training workshops
  • 75 per cent increase in demand for advice about safe storage of petroleum products
  • Increased satisfaction in general among the industry

Manitoba Heavy Construction Association's Safety, Health and Environment Program

Manitoba heavy construction companies are more eager than ever to learn safety, health and environment skills since the industry's trade association launched a revamped, user-friendly new support program. Organizers of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Associations Safety, Health Environment Program (SHEP) hope this interest will lead to fewer worker injuries and environmental accidents. Write-up funding provided by Environment Canada's National Office of Pollution Prevention.


The Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (MHCA) is a non-profit trade organization that has represented 700 contractors in the heavy construction and related industry sectors in Manitoba since 1943. These include contractors who work in road building, sewer and water systems, bridge building, aggregate production, petroleum product supply and heavy equipment sales.

Prior to the 1990s, heavy construction contractors in Manitoba followed a hit and miss approach to safety and environmental training. Some employers sent workers for training at universities, community colleges or by private consultants. However, the training was usually not specific to the heavy construction industry.

The programs were not generally aimed at heavy construction contractors, said Dave Gylywoychuk, co-manager of the MHCAs Safety, Health and Environment Program. Any training they were getting was too general. Our companies needed to know the specs (specifics) for how to deal with environmental and safety impacts in a given situation.

The heavy construction industry needed a central body to organize safety, health and environmental training for workers.

In 1990 MHCA designed a safety-and-health training program to reduce injuries among workers. In 1997, MHCA acquired enough government funding to develop a separate environmental safety program. Through these two programs, MHCA offered comprehensive safety and environmental accreditation to any company willing to go through the process. The accreditation was recognized throughout Canada.

By 1999 industry representatives told MHCA they were frustrated with the program.

The programs were good, but contractors were spending too much time in workshops and being bombarded with too much information, said Gylywoychuk. Industry was telling us our approach was inefficient. We realized it didnt make sense to have two parallel programs.

In early 2000 MHCA decided to amalgamate the programs under one banner, called the Safety Health Environmental Program (SHEP).

Setting Objectives

The MHCA's main objective with SHEP was to combine a cumbersome set of safety and environmental programs into a simpler format. The MHCA hoped this would lead to more participation in training workshops, which, in turn, would lead to fewer injuries and environmental accidents. The MHCA also believed that higher participation in its Certificate of Recognition (COR) certification program would make Manitoba heavy construction companies more competitive, both inside the province and across Canada.

Delivering the Program

The safety and environmental programs of the early and mid 1990s provided an effective template for SHEP. MHCA drew heavily from them to design the new program.

"We realized the industry was comfortable with the basic mechanics of the programs we had in place, such as the technical advice, site visits and training," said Gylywoychuk. "They key was to give industry a bigger bang for its dollar with more information delivered in less time" (Overcoming Specific Barriers).

The MHCA also recognized that, increasingly, purchasers of construction services required formal safety and environmental certification from contractors during the tender bidding process.

"They wanted to see that there was a management system in place that showed companies were taking safety, health and the environment seriously," said Gylywoychuk. "So getting companies certified made it more likely they'd get work" (Financial Incentives).

COR certification
SHEP designed COR certification as the cornerstone of its training program. Although becoming COR certified was voluntary, MHCA encouraged all heavy construction companies in Manitoba to do so. The program was a drastic improvement over the two-pronged program it replaced in that it took half the time. To obtain certification, SHEP required companies to send one full-time employee to COR certification workshops for seven days of training. Prior to SHEP, companies had been required to send an employee to two separate workshop series. SHEP made pitches for the new, more concise program in virtually all of the monthly and weekly newsletters it mass mailed to industry. It also actively solicited companies by phone to take part in certification workshops (Mass Media).

"It's going get more and more difficult to get work without having COR certification, which is why we're asking companies to get certified," said Gylywoychuk. "COR is reciprocally recognized and accepted across Canada, which means Manitoba COR companies can bid on jobs in other provinces that require COR." Heavy construction companies working in Manitoba are not required to have COR certification, but most other provinces require it.

SHEP organizers designed the COR program to run from October to April, which is off-season for construction companies. Workshops were offered in various time slots to give companies flexibility to choose a convenient time (Overcoming Specific Barriers). The course work consisted of the following:

  • two days of safety, health and environment management training
  • two days of supervisor leadership training in safety and environment
  • one day of first aid
  • one day of training that is specific to the company's type of work (for example, Pits and Quarries, Sewer and Water, etc.)
  • one day of auditor training so that a company can learn to audit its own COR program

During the workshop process SHEP taught COR candidates how to incorporate a 14-point safety, health and environmental program into its daily management routine (see the notes section, below, for more details). Subsequent to workshop training, the companies were expected to develop and implement the program.

"One of the strengths of COR is that it's a voluntary, internal management system," said Gylywoychuk. "We help them develop and implement it within their company and then they take care of managing it."

After a company completed the training and overhauled its management practices, the MHCA gave it an on-site trial audit. Then MHCA called in an external auditor to certify the company. The MHCA used an independent consultant with more than 30 years of experience as a safety and health auditor in the construction industry. For two years following initial certification companies were to audit themselves and during the fourth year the external auditor would return to confirm the company had implemented the program (Building Motivation Over Time; Obtaining a Commitment).

Other SHEP activities
SHEP used its monthly and weekly newsletters to tell companies about upcoming training sessions not related to COR, to give companies general safety, health and environment information and to alert them about upcoming regulatory changes that could affect the industry (Mass Media).

The program included site visits to any company that requested one. In 2001 it did more than 160 visits throughout the province. It also did spot check visits to construction sites, but always in the spirit of help, rather than coercion. If it found a workplace hazard at a work site it reported the hazard to the job supervisor or to management with the expectation that management would co-operate. Informal training often took place during these site visits.

"For example, a company might say 'come to my aggregate pit and tell me what's right and what's wrong,'" said Gylywoychuk. "So we would do that and then they would be required to submit an action plan with timelines" (Obtaining a Commitment).

SHEP workers also received six to ten phone calls a day as well as office visits from contractors in need of information. Questions generally related to a company's need for assistance with a specific safety or environment issue or for help interpreting a specific regulation.

"We designed this program so that we could deliver it through meeting the needs of industry and responding to their requests," said Gylywoychuk. "There are really no delivery steps, except for COR program."

SHEP ran formal training programs separate from COR, generally in a pre-arranged classroom setting. It used trained full-time instructors who lectured workers, showed them instructional videos, and provided hands-on training. It also brought in experts from industry and government. SHEP met requests for formal training often by doing the training on job sites or by renting space close to a company's offices for classroom training (Overcoming Specific Barriers). It ran training workshops at the annual Manitoba Construction Conference in Winnipeg and at the Western Canada Construction Conference in Brandon.

SHEP also acted as an intermediary between federal and provincial regulators on one hand and heavy construction companies on the other.

"We act as a sort of sounding board for contractor with respect to regulators," said Gylywoychuk. "If the contractors are feeling overwhelmed by regulation demands we can help them out with it."

Maurice Mazerolle, an environment officer with the petroleum program at Manitoba Conservation, said he received calls regularly from SHEP about companies that needed information about safe storage of petroleum products.

"The co-operation by heavy construction contractors has really improved under SHEP," said Mazerolle. "Definitely industry is cleaning up its act with respect to the environment." Petroleum storage was an important concern in heavy construction since many companies kept large, above ground tanks on company property to fill vehicles with fuel. Spills typically occurred as workers filled vehicles and when hose connections began to leak. Mazerolle said industry's increased interest to comply with environmental safety regulations is certain to lead to fewer petroleum spills.

"The calls we get have increased by about 75 per cent," he said. "SHEP is another avenue for us to get the word out to companies that need our guidance."

In 2001, SHEP trained 1,392 workers from 93 separate companies in 32 subject areas. Forty Manitoba companies had COR accreditation, with 12 more scheduled for accreditation in 2002.

Financing the Program

SHEP's annual budget of $350,000 supports the following:

  • four full-time employees. One co-ordinator, two co-managers and one administration person.
  • monthly and weekly newsletters
  • ongoing training seminars as requested by contractors and a full series of COR certification workshops every year
  • site visits to construction worksite and contractor's facilities throughout Manitoba
  • ongoing consultations with all levels of government regarding safety, health and environment issues
  • two annual construction conferences, one urban and one rural

The budget was entirely funded by the industry it served by way of Worker's Compensation Board premiums. Any company that paid into the WCB fund was eligible to use SHEP, whether or not it was a member of the MHCA.

Measuring Achievements

MHCA used statistics complied by Workers Compensation Board to track injury rates in the industry.

As of 2001 the SHEP team began to randomly call heavy construction firms to ask their opinion of the program. Four times a year it called to ask whether there were any issues these companies needed to address and to ask for feedback on the SHEP program in general.


Demand for COR certification doubled in 2001, the year after MHCA launched SHEP. The MHCA also reported that heavy construction companies showed more interest in other training workshops and in networking. Attendance at the MHCA's 2001 annual conference increased by 100 attendees over the previous year.

After SHEP was launched, heavy construction companies became significantly more compliant about safe storage of petroleum. Manitoba Conservation reported a 75 per cent increase in the number of requests for information from industry. However, at publication time, they had not compiled statistical data about the reduction in environmental spills.

The most recent data the MHCA had with respect to accident statistics was for the period ending in 2000. Compiled from the Worker's Compensation Board figures, data indicated that total injuries fell from 244 in 1998 to 219 in 2000.

Based on feedback from industry, the MHCA recorded the following benefits from SHEP.

  • Improved worker morale
  • Enhanced corporate image
  • Increased cost effectiveness and competitive advantage in project bidding
  • Increased understanding of safety, health and environment regulations
  • Greater protection to the general public, property and the environment
  • Increased availability of leading edge training material resources and research


Dave Gylywoychuk, B.Sc., M.N.R.M, C.A.E
Manitoba Heavy Construction Association
Co-Manager Safety, Health and Environment Program
1236 Ellice Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3G 0E7
Tel: (204) 947-1379
Fax: (204) 943-2279
Web site:

This case study was written by Jay Kassirer in 2002. Funding for the write-up was provided by Environment Canada's National Office of Pollution Prevention. For more information on this and other pollution prevention success stories, please visit the Canadian Pollution Prevention Success Stories website.


MHCA's Certificate of Recognition training focused on a 14-point safety, health and environment program that companies were expected to incorporate into their daily management routines. The 14 points are:

  1. a company safety, health, environment policy - in effect, a safety and environment mission statement
  2. a hazard assessment checklist
  3. a work practices guide with specific standards built in
  4. job procedures, including step-by-step procedures of particular job tasks, hazards associated with those tasks and how to control those hazards
  5. safety, health and environment rules - for example, alcohol and drug policies and policies aimed at expected behaviour
  6. personal protective equipment rules - requirements for the use of safety boots, hazardous material suits, etc.
  7. preventative maintenance policies, such as maintaining hand and power tools and heavy equipment in a condition that is safe for all employees
  8. safety committees and worker reps - to make sure all companies had someone on the job site that understood how to take employee concerns to management
  9. emergency response plans
  10. inspection plans - companies were expected to do informal work site inspections on a daily basis
  11. accident investigation plans - Manitoba legislation required companies to do internal investigation where there was a serious accident at a workplace - A near miss incident also had to be documented and investigated
  12. Environmental waste and material management, including compliance with provincial and federal regulations
  13. records and stats - companies had to keep documentation and records of employee training and injury rates. They had to be able to track high-risk areas so they could pay more attention to them.
  14. legislation and regulations - both employees and supervisors had to have an understanding of the legislative environment.

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