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Just ask workers at the Western Memorial Hospital in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. When you exercise your right to refuse unsafe work, you can get quick action on health and safety hazards.

It all began in the hospitals film library where workers were suffering injuries because the files were so tightly packed. CUPE 488 had been raising concerns about the hazardous situation for some time with the joint health and safety committee and the employer.

Nothing seemed to work, said local president Donna Ryan. Then one day I received a call that staff had exercised their right to refuse unsafe work. An inspector was called in and he confirmed the conditions were dangerous. The following Monday the employer provided new areas for the files.

But the film library was not the only place where Local 488 members exercised their right to refuse. In housekeeping, utility workers refused to handle a patient chair after chemotherapy drugs had been spilled on it. The powerful drugs, which are used in the treatment of cancer, are known to be potentially harmful. Workers exercised their right to refuse to handle the chairs until they had been properly decontaminated.

Staff in the hospitals coffee shop had been working in excessive heat during the summer months. The employer refused to do anything about it, until workers decided their health was at risk from the effects of the heat. They exercised their right to refuse. The hospital administration corrected the problem by installing air conditioning that same week.

And the refusals at the hospital did not stop there. In the dietary section, separate refusals led to two different hazards being corrected. In the laundry, workers refused to use baskets without proper lifts. New lifts were ordered and now all baskets have lifts.

Donna Ryan says Our members have sent a message to all workers and to the employer. If its unsafe, dont do it!