The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
Some workers, such as nurses, firefighters and police officers cannot refuse work if the danger is a normal part of their job or if refusing work would put someone else in danger.
Regardless of skill level and experience, it is important to know that everyone has a role in safety! Every job has hazards, no matter how safe it looks.
Each day in Canada, more than forty workers under the age of 19 are injured on the job. In 2017, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, there were 951 workplace fatalities recorded in Canada. Among these deaths, twenty-three were young workers: nineteen aged 20-24 and four aged 15-19. During the same period, 31,441 young workers lost time due to a work-related injury or disease: 23,269 between the ages of 20-24 and 8,172 between the ages of 15-19.
Studies show that new and young workers in are four times more likely to get injured during their first month on the job than at any other time. That’s because they often aren’t told about or don’t understand the hazards of the job. They don’t know what to expect from their employer, their supervisor and of themselves. Sometimes they aren’t sure what questions to ask. Sometimes they don’t even know whom to ask.
In Canada, each province, territory and the federal government has its own Occupational Health and Safety Legislation. O H & S Legislation outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor and the worker through an Act and related Regulations. These Regulations define the application and enforcement of the Act.
Assigned health and safety duties under the Act are connected to the level of authority each person has in the workplace. To sort out all the duties in a workplace, they are broken down to three main levels of authority:
A hazard is anything in the workplace that could hurt you or the people you work with. There is a hazard at the root of every work-related death, injury or sickness. A hazard can take many forms. Sometimes more than one hazard can combine to make an even bigger hazard. You need to know about the hazards in your workplace before you start working.
Understanding occupational health and safety legislation of your province or territory is all about knowing the health and safety duties of all workplace parties and the rights of workers, and putting them into action. We all have to get involved.
If an employer knows about a hazard and doesn’t try to eliminate or reduce it, or inform workers about it and how to deal with it, that employer is not doing what the law requires.
If a supervisor knows about a hazard and doesn’t explain to workers how to deal with it, that supervisor is not doing what the law requires.
If a worker knows about a hazard and doesn’t report it to the supervisor or the employer, that worker is not doing what the law requires. If you see a hazard on the job or a “close call or near miss incident”, report it to your supervisor or employer immediately, or when safe to do so.
Provincial and Territorial Occupational Health and Safety Legislation gives you the right to participate and get involved in keeping your workplace safe and healthy. To be actively involved, you can:
If you see something unsafe that could injure someone, you need to report it to your supervisor or your employer immediately, or when safe to do so. It is also a good idea to tell a Joint Health & Safety Committee member or representative if there is one. If you have exhausted all internal procedures of redress with your supervisor, employer, Joint Health & Safety Committee member or representative, union if applicable, and Human Resources, and the health and safety issue still exists, you can call the government department responsible for health and safety in your jurisdiction at their toll-free number. Their job is to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses through enforcing Occupational Health and Safety Legislation and related Regulations under the Act.
Be a Safety Role Model!