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What am I supposed to do to keep my workplace safe? What does my employer have to do?

You and your employer are both responsible for keeping your workplace safe. But, the law says that you have different responsibilities based on your roles.

As a worker, you must:

  • follow the safety policies in your workplace, unless they put you in danger
  • tell your employer if you see anything that could hurt you or someone else
  • use the safety equipment required for your job
  • not do anything that could hurt another worker
  • act in a safe and responsible way around dangerous equipment, materials, or situations
  • tell your employer if you see anything that breaks the rules in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)

Your employer must try to protect your health and safety while you're at work.

Your employer must:

  • make sure the safety policies in your workplace follow the rules in the OHSA
  • make sure people follow the safety policies
  • make sure you get the information, training, and supervision you need to do your job safely
  • make sure people use all equipment in a safe and proper way
  • keep the workplace in good shape
  • work with the health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee to solve problems

The rules in the OHSA say that your employer must "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances" to protect your safety. This means that they must do everything they reasonably can to keep you safe. That could include changes to machines, safety equipment, or your workplace that are likely to stop people from getting hurt.

Every workplace will have different safety needs. If you think your employer should do more to protect you, talk to your union, your health and safety representative, or your Joint Health and Safety Committee.

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Know what you have to do

In general, you should act in a way that does not put you or other people in danger.

You must follow the safety policies in your workplace and follow the rules in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

This includes:

  • telling your employer if you see anything that could hurt you or someone else
  • properly using the safety equipment required for your job
  • not doing anything that could hurt another worker
  • acting in a safe and responsible way around dangerous equipment, materials, or situations
  • telling your employer if you see anything that breaks the rules in the OHSA

You can get more information about your responsibilities from your health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee, or your union or trade association.

If you have a specific question about your responsibilities at work, you can contact the Office of the Worker Adviser at 1-800-435-8980.

You can also ask the Ministry of Labour a question using the online Public Inquiries form.

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Know what your employer has to do

In general, your employer must make sure you can do your job safely. To do that, they must:

  • give you a supervisor who understands the risks of your job
  • train your supervisor on safety issues
  • train your supervisor on the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and workplace policies
  • tell you about any dangers related to your job
  • make sure that you wear protective gear and use safety equipment in the right way
  • post their health and safety policy where you can see it, if your workplace has 6 or more workers
  • train you on the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) if you work with dangerous materials

Rules about safety equipment

There's no clear rule about who has to pay for safety equipment. Usually, employers pay for equipment or tools that workers will share. But your employer can ask you to buy your own personal protective equipment.

Your employer must make sure that you have a safe place to work. This means that they usually pay for the following types of equipment:

  • safety guards on machines
  • safety equipment that can be used by anyone
  • first aid stations
  • tests or tools needed to keep the employer's equipment working correctly

Your employer can tell you to buy and wear some personal protective equipment if it's necessary for your job. Some examples include:

  • safety glasses
  • a hard hat
  • steel-toed boots, especially if you work in a construction site or a factory
  • ear plugs or other hearing protection

Your employer can also have a dress code policy for safety reasons. For example, your employer might ask you to wear shoes that are closed at the toe and long pants or long sleeves.

These rules are part of your workplace safety policy.

Your employer cannot take the cost of your personal protective equipment out of your paycheque, unless you tell them in writing that they can do this.

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Know your health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee

If your workplace has 6 workers or more, find out who your health and safety representative is or who is on your Joint Health and Safety Committee

Their job is to help you understand the dangers in your workplace and make sure you can do your job safely.

They can also investigate dangers and recommend things your employer should do to keep the workplace safer.

It's a good idea to know who these people are and how to contact them.

If you have a union or trade association, speak to them first. They'll have someone who can help with your safety problem.

Think about making a complaint to the Ministry of Labour

If your employer is not following the rules in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), you can make a complaint to the Ministry of Labour.

The Ministry of Labour sends an inspector to your workplace to look at the situation and see if rules in the OHSA are not being followed.

The inspector conducts an investigation where they gather facts and make a decision about the situation. They make a written report of their findings and give a copy of the report to your employer representative and your representative.

An inspector can order your employer to follow the law. If they think that you or other workers are in danger, they can also:

  • order your employer to fix any place, equipment, or thing
  • order that no one can use a piece of equipment until it's fixed
  • stop the work in your workplace until the safety issue is fixed
  • order everyone to leave a dangerous place until the safety issue is fixed

You can call the Ministry of Labour's Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008 to make a complaint. You can call them any time. You don't have to talk to your supervisor about the problem first.

Your employer is not allowed to punish you for making a complaint. You don't have to tell the Ministry of Labour your name to make a complaint.

If you disagree with the inspector's decision, you can ask the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to change it. This is called appealing the decision of an inspector.

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Reviewed: 
October, 2015

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