This page explains how to use your right to refuse dangerous work. If you need more help, it is available through your steward, local officer or CEIU staff representative.
The right to refuse dangerous work is found in the Canada Labour Code, Part II, which is available in its entirety here. For quick reference, the sections of the Code dealing specifically with the right to refuse are also provided.
What does “danger” mean?
The term “danger” is defined in the Code:
“danger” means any existing or potential hazard or condition or any current or future activity that could reasonably be expected to cause injury or illness to a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected, or the activity altered, whether or not the injury or illness occurs immediately after the exposure to the hazard, condition or activity, and includes any exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to result in a chronic illness, in disease or in damage to the reproductive system;
The definition of danger is broad, and if you have reasonable cause to believe that danger exists, you can exercise your right to refuse.
How to exercise your right to refuse
First, you can exercise this right only if doing so would not put the life, health or safety of another person directly in danger and if the danger in question is not a normal condition of your employment.
Here are the steps to follow: (bracketed contents refer to the relevant sections of the Code)
- Notify your employer of the danger and your decision to exercise your right to refuse. Indicate that you intend to pursue the refusal under the Code rather than a collective agreement.
- The employer must investigate the matter. If the employer agrees that a danger exists, immediate corrective action must be taken and the employer must inform the work place health and safety committee or the health and safety representative. (s.128(8))
- If the employer does not agree that a danger exists but you have reasonable cause to believe that it does, report your continuing refusal to both the employer and the work place committee or the health and safety representative. (s.128(9))
- The employer must immediately investigate the matter in your presence and that of the health and safety representative. If that representative is not available, you can choose another person from the work place. (s.128(10))
- If the matter remains unresolved, report your continued refusal to the employer. The employer must notify a health and safety officer at the Labour section of Human Resources Development Canada. (s.128(13)) The employer must also inform the work place committee of this action. (s.128(14))
- The health and safety officer investigates the matter in your presence and that of the health and safety representative. If that representative is not available, you can choose another person from the work place. (s.129(1))
- When the investigation is completed, the health and safety officer must immediately give you and the employer written notification of the decision on whether the danger exists. (s.129(4))
- If the health and safety officer decides that the danger exists, directions must be issued by the officer and your refusal can continue until those directions have been complied with. (s.129(6))
- It the health and safety officer decides that the danger does not exist, no continued refusal is allowed. However, you (or someone designated by you) can appeal the decision to an appeals officer within ten days. (s.129(7))
- Note that if the employer assigns you reasonable alternative work, you must perform it. (s.128.1(3))