Three Main Rights of Workers in Canada

If you are a worker in Canada, you automatically have three main rights pertaining to health and safety. Referred to as the “Three Rights of Workers” by the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety, these rights are protected under Occupational Health and Safety Legislation. In this post, you will learn all you need to know about each of these three rights!

1. The Right to Know

The “Right to Know” is the first fundamental right of workers in Canada, and it involves providing employees with information about health and safety matters in the workplace. This right ensures that workers are aware of potential hazards and how to mitigate them. Here are some key aspects:

Training and Information: Employers are obligated to provide workers with the necessary training and information to perform their jobs safely. This includes information about workplace hazards, the proper use of equipment, and any specific safety procedures.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS): Workers have the right to access Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) or Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for hazardous materials used in the workplace. These sheets contain information about the properties of chemicals, their potential hazards, and recommended safety precautions.
Labels and Warning Signs: Hazardous substances and areas should be clearly labeled with appropriate warning signs and symbols to ensure workers are aware of potential dangers.
Safety Manuals and Guidelines: Employers often develop safety manuals and guidelines that outline safe work practices, emergency procedures, and other safety-related information. Workers have the right to access and understand these documents.

2. The Right to Participate

The “Right to Participate” gives workers a voice in health and safety matters within their workplace. This right encourages collaboration between employees and employers to identify and address safety concerns. Key aspects include:

Joint Health and Safety Committees: In many workplaces, joint health and safety committees are established, consisting of both worker and employer representatives. These committees meet regularly to discuss safety issues, review incidents, and develop strategies to improve workplace safety. In Alberta, OHS Legislation states that all businesses with 20 or more employees must establish a JH&S Committee. Meanwhile, businesses with 5-19 employees must appoint a Health and Safety Representative.

Worker Input: Workers have the right to provide input on safety-related decisions. This could involve discussing potential hazards, suggesting improvements to safety procedures, or participating in safety inspections.

Training and Education: Employers are encouraged to provide workers with training and education on health and safety matters to empower them to actively participate in creating a safer work environment.

3. The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

The “Right to Refuse Unsafe Work” is a crucial right that allows workers to protect themselves and others from immediate danger in the workplace. Here’s how it works:

Recognizing Unsafe Conditions: If a worker believes that their job or a specific task poses an immediate danger to their health and safety or that of others, they have the right to refuse to perform that work. This might involve identifying hazardous equipment, unsafe practices, or other conditions that could lead to harm.

Reporting to Supervisor: The worker is required to report their concerns to their immediate supervisor or employer. It is important to follow the established reporting procedures in the workplace.

Investigation and Resolution: Once a refusal is reported, the employer or supervisor is responsible for investigating the situation promptly. If necessary, a government inspector may also become involved. The goal is to determine whether the refusal is justified and take appropriate actions to mitigate the identified hazards.

Protection from Reprisal: Workers who exercise their right to refuse unsafe work are protected from any form of reprisal or punishment by their employer. They cannot be fired, disciplined, or otherwise disadvantaged for raising safety concerns in good faith.

Together, these three rights create a framework emphasizing the importance of informed, engaged, and protected workers in maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.  

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    Reporting to Supervisor: The worker is required to report their concerns to their immediate supervisor or employer. It is important to follow the established reporting procedures in the workplace.