OHSA Rights & Responsibilities

The Occupational Health Safety Act (OHSA) defines duties and responsibilities in workplaces. Below is a summary of duties and responsibilities as listed in the OHSA, for a full description please visit the Ministry of Labour website.

Employer - University of Waterloo departments

  • Instruct, inform and supervise workers to protect their health and safety.
  • Appoint competent persons as supervisors.
  • "Competent person" means under the OHSA a person who:
    • is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance
    • is familiar with the OHSA and the regulations that apply to the work and
    • has knowledge about any potential or actual danger to health and safety in the workplace.
  • Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker


  • Ensure that a worker complies with the OHSA and regulations.
  • Ensure that any equipment, protective device or clothing required by the employer is used or worn by the worker.
  • Advise a worker of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor.
  • Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers.

It is also a supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that workers receive proper job-specific training in the workplace with regard to equipment operation, hazard awareness and personal protective equipment. A faculty or staff member who supervises a paid worker (Student Research Assistants, Post-Doctoral Fellows, Technicians, Apprentices, etc.) is considered a “supervisor”. 

Employees (workers)

  • Work in compliance with the OHSA and regulations.
  • Use or wear any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer.
  • Report to the employer or supervisor any known missing or defective equipment or protective device that may be dangerous.
  • Report any known workplace hazard to the employer or supervisor.
  • Report any known contravention of the OHSA or regulations to the employer or supervisor.
  • Do not remove or make ineffective any protective device required by the employer or by the regulations.
  • Do not use or operate any equipment or work in a way that may endanger any worker.
  • Do not engage in any prank, contest, feat of strength, unnecessary running or rough and boisterous conduct.

Everyone employed at the University is considered to be a worker. Also, students paid as Research or Teaching Assistants are deemed as workers. 

Workers’ rights

Under the OHSA and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) regulations workers have the following basic rights in the workplace:

Right to participate

Workers have the right to be part of the process of identifying and resolving workplace health and safety concerns.
This right is expressed through worker membership on the University’s Joint Health and Safety Committee.

Right to know

Workers have the right to know about any potential hazard to which they may be exposed. This means the right to be trained and to have information on machinery, equipment, processes and hazardous substances.Your work area specific training is provided through your department and supervisor. The University’s Health, Safety and Environment Program includes training provided through the Safety Office.

Training Programs

Right to refuse unsafe work

A worker may refuse to work or do particular work where they have reason to believe that:

  • Any equipment, machine, device or thing the worker is told to use or operate is likely to endanger himself or herself or another worker (Note: that worker includes students and visitors).
  • The physical condition of the workplace or workstation is likely to endanger the worker.
  • Any equipment, machine, device or thing that he or she is to use or operate, or the physical condition of the workplace, contravenes OHSA or regulations and is likely to endanger himself or herself or another worker.

The following procedure must be followed in a work refusal situation:

  1. Immediately report refusal to work to your supervisor. Worker remains in a safe location near the work area.
  2. Supervisor then notifies Safety Office.
  3. Safety Office arranges for worker member of Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) to attend work area.
  4. The supervisor would then investigate the situation in the presence of the worker who refused, a worker member of JHSC, and a Safety Office representative.
  5. If the situation is resolved, the worker returns to work.
  6. If the worker still believes the work to be unsafe, the Ministry of Labour is notified. Pending a further investigation, the worker may be assigned other work.

More information on Unsafe Work Refusals