Right to Refuse Unsafe Work, Procedure, and Provincial Guidelines during COVID-19
For the most part, all provinces within Canada follow a similar procedure relating to an employee’s right to refuse unsafe work. The below list is a number of common steps required, country-wide:
- Tell your supervisor about what is unsafe about your work. This is a required step and failure to do so before escalating the matter further may be detrimental and/or further complicate the resolution your complaint.
- The supervisor must then respond to your concerns, and, if in agreement, must take corrective action(s) to resolve the matter. If your supervisor disagrees with you, they should explain why they disagree.
- If you are not satisfied with your supervisor’s action(s) and your workplace has a health and safety committee or representative, advise them of your concerns. They can conduct an investigation on your behalf and provide a decision on their findings. If they agree with you, they can make recommendations to your employer to take corrective measures to remedy the unsafe situation.
- If you are not satisfied with the committee or representative’s action(s) or if there is no committee/representative, you can contact a health and safety officer in your jurisdiction who can investigate your concern. If the officer disagrees with you, the officer will advise you to return to work.
- If you disagree with the officer’s decision, you have a right to appeal with your jurisdiction.
- The employer has the right to temporarily reassign you to perform other work while the investigation is being conducted.
- An employer may also assign another worker to perform the work, but only after advising the other worker of the work refusal and the reasons.
- At all times during a work refusal process, workers can document their concerns regarding the dangerous situation or condition, persons they have spoken to, and the outcome of any conversations.
More information can be found at: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/legisl/three_rights.html
Further Information by Province
Below is further information with respect to each province, with links that you can visit to find out more about your rights and obligations as they relate to health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To know more about your rights: https://www.ontario.ca/document/guide-occupational-health-and-safety-act/part-v-right-refuse-or-stop-work-where-health-and-safety-danger
To know more about your rights: https://www.worksafenb.ca/workers/health-safety/your-rights/
Guide to returning to work during COVID-19: https://www.worksafenb.ca/media/60996/embracing-the-new-normal.pdf
Newfoundland and Labrador
To know more about your rights: https://workplacenl.ca/site/uploads/2019/06/right-to-refuse-september-2015.pdf
Guide regarding PPE in the workplace: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/files/Guidance-on-Personal-Protective-Equipment-PPE-for-Employers.pdf
Further guidance in reopening your workplace: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/files/Guidance-for-Workplaces.pdf
To know more about your rights: https://novascotia.ca/lae/healthandsafety/employeeright.asp
Further guide to returning to the workplace: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/working-during-covid-19/#health-protection-act-order
Further guidance for reopening your workplace: http://www.worksafeforlife.ca/COVID19
Prince Edward Island
To know more about your rights: http://www.wcb.pe.ca/Workplace/RightsAndResponsibilities
To know more about your rights: https://www.csst.qc.ca/en/prevention/Pages/en_right_refuse_work.aspx
Guide for Employers and Employees during COVID-19: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/answers-questions-coronavirus-covid19/employers-workers-covid-19/
To know more about your rights: https://www.alberta.ca/refuse-dangerous-work.aspx
To know more about your rights: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/safety-in-the-workplace/rights-and-responsibilities-in-the-workplace/duties-and-rights-of-workers
To know more about your rights: https://www.gov.mb.ca/labour/safety/wsh_faqs_right_refuse.html
To know more about your rights: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/create-manage/rights-responsibilities/refusing-unsafe-work
To know more about your rights: https://wcb.yk.ca/QuestionResults/OHS/Rights-and-Responsibilities/Q0225.aspx
Northwest Territories and Nunavut
To know more about your rights: http://www.wscc.nt.ca/content/steps-refuse-unsafe-work
To know more about your rights: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/health-safety/reports/right-refuse.html
Additional Guidelines Regarding Ensuring the Workplace is Safe For Return
The federal government has listed a number of considerations to take into account before employers open up the physical workspace.
Some of the key considerations include the following:
- Discourage people who are ill from entering
- Promote personal preventative practices
- Promote physical distancing
- Create physical barriers
- Increase ventilation
- Mitigate risks from exposure to high-touch surfaces
- Mitigate risk for people at higher risk of severe illness
- Modify practices to reduce how long employees/clients are in contact with one another
- Consider wearing masks and other PPE if necessary
- Have an emergency preparedness and response plan in place
Please visit the following link for further information: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/guidance-documents/risk-informed-decision-making-workplaces-businesses-covid-19-pandemic.html