Troy Winters | CUPE Health and Safety
Across Canada, health and safety laws are based on the concept of the internal responsibility system, which says workers and employers should be able to meet and solve their health and safety issues as partners. To that end, health and safety laws in this country enshrine the following three rights to most workers. These rights form the basis for your health and safety at work.
1. THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE
All workers have a right to participate in keeping the workplace healthy and safe by taking part in activities like the selection of health and safety representatives or joint health and safety committee members, or by being a committee member themselves. With this right comes a worker’s responsibility to report all hazards to their employer, without fear of reprimand, reprisal, or punishment. Through participation in health and safety-related activities, workers help decide what hazards can be tolerated in the workplace and what hazards must be mitigated.
2. THE RIGHT TO KNOW
Workers have a right to know about all hazards present in their workplace, and how those hazards may hurt them. Employers are required to provide the information, training, and supervision a worker needs to avoid being hurt by hazards in the workplace. Training and information about hazards should be provided before a worker is exposed so they know how to protect themselves. Despite what many employers claim, there is no law that supersedes a worker’s right to know about hazards in the workplace.
3. THE RIGHT TO REFUSE
Health and safety laws give workers the right to refuse work they believe is unsafe to themselves or their coworkers. Ultimately, the right to refuse is provided so that a worker never needs to choose between their health and safety and having a job. In every province, a worker cannot be punished for refusing to do work that they believe will hurt themselves or others – it’s the law. It is not up to the worker to prove whether their belief is justified. An investigation following the refusal will determine if the refusal should continue. Each jurisdiction has slight differences in the investigation process.
For more information on the right to refuse that’s specific to your province, visit cupe.ca/health-andsafety.
For any questions on your health and safety rights, contact your CUPE servicing representative, or your CUPE health and safety specialist.