WorkSafeBC Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

The following is copied from WorkSafeBC’s website:

Refusing Unsafe Work

Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If you have reasonable cause to believe that performing a job or task puts you or someone else at risk, you must not perform the job or task. You must immediately notify your supervisor or employer, who will then take the appropriate steps to determine if the work is unsafe and remedy the situation.

As an employer, workers are your eyes and ears on the front line of workplace health and safety. When workers refuse work because they believe it’s unsafe, consider it an opportunity to investigate and correct a situation that could have caused harm.

If a worker refuses work because it’s unsafe, workplace procedures will allow the issue to be properly understood and corrected. As a worker, you have the right to refuse to perform a specific job or task you believe is unsafe without being disciplined by your employer. Your employer or supervisor may temporarily assign a new task to you, at no loss in pay.

Steps to follow when work might be unsafe

1. Report the unsafe condition or procedure
As a worker, you must immediately report the unsafe condition to a supervisor or employer.

As a supervisor or employer, you must investigate the matter and fix it if possible. If you decide the worker’s concern is not valid, report back to the worker.

2. If a worker still views work as unsafe after a supervisor or employer has said it is safe to perform a job or task.
As a supervisor or employer, you must investigate the problem and ensure any unsafe condition is fixed.

This investigation must take place in the presence of the worker and a worker representative of the joint health and safety committee or a worker chosen by the worker’s trade union. If there is no safety committee or representing trade union at the workplace, the worker who first reported the unsafe condition can choose to have another worker present at the investigation.

3. If a worker still views work as unsafe, notify WorkSafeBC

If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor or employer must contact WorkSafeBC. A prevention officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution.
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Q & A:

Q. I don’t think my employer is implementing safety measures- can I stay home and refuse unsafe work?
A. No, In order to Refuse Unsafe Work an employee must see firsthand that the workplace is unsafe.

Q. My supervisor investigated a Right to Refuse Unsafe work allegation and said my concern is not valid. I do not agree with this and believe there is still an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk, above and beyond the potential exposure a general member of the public would face through regular, day-to-day activity. What should I do?
A. If you still feel the work is unsafe after a supervisor has said it is safe to perform a job or task you have the right to a second investigation, this time with “a worker representative of the joint health and safety committee.” Note: Should the employee agree that the matter is not or no longer a safety concern the issue is concluded.

Q. The joint health and safety committee investigated and said my concern was not valid. I do not agree with this for the same reason as above. What should I do?
A. If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor (or employer) must contact WorkSafeBC. A Prevention Officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution. WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line to report unsafe working conditions is toll-free 1-888-621-7233 (1.888.621.SAFE) 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Note: Should the employee agree that the matter is not or no longer a safety concern the issue is concluded.

Q. Can the employer assign me different tasks while the investigation process go on?
A. Yes, the employer is entitled to re-assign duties temporarily in order to affect an investigation. Making a Right to Refuse Unsafe work allegation is not authorization to leave work, but rather to investigate procedures or conditions that require immediate attention.

Should you have any questions about the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work please contact the union office at 604-876-6287.