Health and Safety Overview

Health and safety is a broad subject area, and an important one. There are opportunities available to learn more about health and safety and interested members are encouraged to pursue them.

If you are concerned with a health or safety issue at work, contact your steward, local executive officer or CEIU staff representative.

This page provides an overview of key features of Part II of the Canada Labour Code from which CEIU members gain their protection on health and safety matters. The aim is to provide members with a starting point in the area of health and safety; training courses and reference to the Code itself are the paths to a fuller understanding.

Your rights

Three significant rights are set out in Part II of the Code: the right to know; the right to participate and the right to refuse.

You have a right to be informed of hazards (known and foreseeable) in your work place and to receive the training and information required to ensure your health and safety. These rights flow, in part, through your local work place health and safety committee or representative (see discussion below on committees).

CEIU members also enjoy the right to participate, as members of work place committees or as health and safety representatives, in the ongoing work of identifying problems and proposing solutions.

The right to refuse dangerous work is crucial to protecting your health and safety. If you have reasonable cause to believe you are facing danger, you can exercise this right. A separate page on this site deals with this topic.

Workplace health and safety committees

In work places of 20 or more employees, health and safety committees must be established. The composition of the committees is important: at least half of the committee members must not have managerial functions and must be selected by the union. Committees meet nine times per year (more often, if required) to carry out a variety of tasks. These committees give members the chance to influence the organization of the work place and locals should take full advantage of this opportunity.

Health and safety representatives

Where there are less than 20 employees in a work place, a health and safety representative is selected rather than a full work place committee. As with committees, the union selects the member to fill the position of representative. The functions of the health and safety representative are similar to those of the work place committee.

Duties of employers

Overall, employers are required to ensure that the health and safety of every employee is protected. The Code lists, under s. 125. (1), the specific requirements of employers in this regard.

Duties of employees

Members have responsibilities as well (see s. 126. (1)). They must take reasonable steps to ensure a safe and healthy work place and report to the employer anything that may be hazardous to the health and safety of themselves or others in the office.


The Code sets out a procedure (s. 127.1) for members to follow in the event they believe, on reasonable grounds, that there is likely to be an accident or injury suffered in the work place.


If you exercise your rights under the Code, you are protected from disciplinary action. If you are using your right to refuse dangerous work however, you must do so according to the procedure set out in the Code. Note that the protection from disciplinary action is removed in the event the employer can prove that you abused your right to refuse.