The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives most employees the right to refuse work that they believe is unsafe, but only in accordance with proper procedure. The OHSA sets out a procedure that must be followed in any work refusal. It is important that employees and employers understand the procedure for a lawful work refusal. If you refuse to show up to your workplace and refuse to follow the appropriate procedure, your employer may deem you to have resigned your position.
If you’re concerned about an unsafe workplace and refusing to work, you must report the reason for the refusal to a supervisor or employer (OHSA, s. 43 (4)). You may want to also report to a worker safety representative.
The supervisor or employer must forthwith investigate in your presence the reason for the work refusal. You can show the supervisor or employer the alleged unsafe workplace.
The employer cannot fire or penalize you for properly reporting an unsafe workplace. This would be an unlawful reprisal. The goal of this procedure is a safe workplace. The supervisor or employer may show you that the workplace is safe or fix a safety hazard, where on exists.
If the employer does not fix the unsafe workplace, you can notify the Ontario Ministry of Labour to request an Occupational Health and Safety Inspection via telephone at 1-877-202-0008 or you may file a complaint online at the Ministry of Labour’s website.
An Occupational Health and Safety Inspector will investigate the alleged unsafe workplace in the presence of yourself, the safety representative and supervisor/employer. The Occupational Health and Safety Inspector will then give a decision to you, the supervisor/employer and safety representative in writing. A determination on safety is not a subjective determination.
If the Occupational Health and Safety Inspector finds that the alleged unsafe workplace is not likely to endanger anyone, the refusing employee is expected to return to work. If the Occupational Health and Safety Inspector finds that the alleged unsafe workplace is likely to endanger the employee or another person, the inspector will generally order the employer to fix the unsafe workplace.
Your employer can’t penalize you for obeying a Ministry of Labour inspector’s order. You should stay informed of any changes to the OHSA and the Ministry of Labour’s announcements. For further information, contact Cariati Law for a free consultation at 905-629-8040.