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Unsafe work refusal

Right to refuse unsafe work

Under Policy 34, Health, Safety and Environment, Section 4 B "Members of the University community have the right to refuse work or assignments that they believe are unsafe. In such cases the refusal must be immediately reported to their supervisor. The supervisor must investigate the situation as prescribed by University procedures."

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) states that a worker may refuse to work or do particular work where he or she has reason to believe that:

  • Any equipment, machine, device or thing the worker is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker
  • The physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is likely to endanger himself or herself
  • Workplace violence is likely to endanger himself or herself
  • Any equipment, machine, device or thing he or she is to use or operate or the physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is in contravention of the OHSA or regulations and such contravention is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker

The OHSA sets out a specific procedure to be followed by workers, supervisors and Joint Health, Safety and Environment Committee (JHSC) members in a work refusal. The work refusal procedure should only begin after a worker has made a complaint to a supervisor about a health and safety concern. Refer to the work refusal process flow chart for more detail.

A worker has the duty to work in accordance to the OHSA and the regulations and has the right to seek their enforcement. The employer is not allowed to discipline a worker who has obeyed the law. However, this provision does not apply if the work refusal was made in bad faith, or if the worker continues to refuse after the Ministry of Labour inspector finds that the work is not likely to endanger the worker.

the process of an employee's right to refuse unsafe work