Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

DF SafetyHSE Compliance, Management and Leadership, Personal Safety Guide, Workplace Safety

Alyssa Britton

Hi there! My name is Alyssa Britton, and I am a recent graduate of the University of New Brunswick OH&S Certificate Program. I recently joined Dave Ferro Safety Ltd. and one of my first tasks is to write a blog. For my first post, I thought I would write about the right to refuse unsafe work in Alberta. 

Did you know that as an employee, the Health and Safety Act legislation gives you the legal right to refuse work that is unsafe for both you and your coworkers? That’s right! A worker has a right to refuse work if they believe on reasonable grounds that there is a dangerous condition at the work site, or that the work is a danger to themselves or others. It is against the provincial labour laws for an employer to ask an employee to work in a situation where there is a danger to health and safety.  

With that being said, if you have refused unsafe work, you are not permitted to abandon the work site unless it is necessary for health and safety reasons. Also, refusing unsafe work does not give you the right to refuse other work that is requested by your employer. Your employer will most likely assign a different work task to you to keep up with production while the health and safety concern is being addressed.  

What should you do?

If you are concerned about an unsafe condition at your workplace and are not comfortable performing the job/task because you feel you or the people you work with may be seriously hurt or injured, what do you do? Let me tell you!  

  1. Report that you are refusing the unsafe work as soon as possible to your supervisor or employer 
  1. Explain to them what the dangerous condition is and your reasoning for the work refusal 
  1. If your employer addresses the situation immediately and fixes the issue, you are permitted to return to the task 

-OR- 

  1. Your employer does not immediately address the issue and assigns a dangerous condition inspection 
  1. As the employee who refused the unsafe work, you have the right to be present during inspection 
  1. If there is a solution and the work is deemed safe, your employer can request resumption of work 

If you feel you are still unsatisfied the with the inspection, you can either resolve the dispute internally, or by an OHS work refusal complaint. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation like this:  

  • Never feel afraid to refuse unsafe work. You are protected under legislation. 
  • It’s your employer’s responsibility that you understand the hazards at your workplace, know the requirements for reporting and have the support you need to exercise this right 
  • You will not be subjected to threatening or discriminatory action for expressing your rights and duties under the legislation 

Thanks for reading my very first blog! I hope you enjoyed it and have gained some knowledge that may potentially be of use to you at some point in your career. I look forward to writing more blogs for you soon, happy Monday!