Right To Refuse
The purpose of Section 43(1) of the Workplace Safety & Health Act is to protect the health and safety of workers by preventing accidents and injuries on the job. One of the basic rights for employees is the right to refuse work that they believe presents a danger to themselves or another employee.
Section 43(1) of the Act states: “A worker may refuse to work or do particular work at a workplace if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the work constitutes a danger to his or her safety or health, or to the safety or health of another worker or another person.”
“Dangerous” work generally means any work involving safety and health risks that are not normal for the job.
The Right to Refuse Dangerous Work should only be used if:
- the internal process for resolving safety concerns failed or the safety concern was not addressed in a timely manner; or
- there is immediate danger.
Always follow the internal process first before initiating the right to refuse dangerous work process. Many safety concerns can be resolved with the internal system without initiating the right to refuse process. The internal process for resolving safety concerns involves notifying your supervisor about a hazard or concern or notifying your Safety and Health Committee or rep of a hazard or concern as quickly as possible. All hazards or concerns brought forward must be dealt with as quickly as possible.
For educational assistants working with students with special needs, initiating the internal process means notifying the Student Support Team responsible for the student’s programming, of any hazards or concerns. All hazards or concerns brought forward must be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Using your right to refuse is not a permanent staff reassignment/replacement mechanism. The process is in place to remedy the situation. Once the safety concern has been resolved, the worker needs to return to the student/task/location. The right to refuse dangerous work should not be abused. It is there for the protection of the employees.
A worker has the right to refuse to do a job if that worker has reasonable cause to believe that:
- They have asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so; and
- They refused to work in "good faith." This means that they must genuinely believe that there is a condition at work where an imminent danger exists to himself or herself; or
- The use or operation of a machine or thing at work presents a danger to himself/herself or a coworker; or
- The performance of an activity constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee.
The following sections outline the steps that must be undertaken when dealing with a right to refuse situation: