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What should I do if my work is not safe?

You can refuse to do a task your employer gives you if you think it's dangerous for you or someone else.

It does not matter if other people did the task before and didn’t have an accident.

You don't have to ask anyone for permission before you refuse the task. But you do have to tell your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. You have to tell them why you think the task is not safe.

You can refuse to do a task if you think that:

  • equipment you're supposed to use is dangerous
  • the place where you work is dangerous because it’s in bad condition someone else is using equipment or working in a space that's dangerous
  • doing the task is likely to put you in danger of violence from someone at your workplace

When you refuse to do a task because you think it's not safe, your supervisor or employer must look into the problem right away to see if they agree.

You must be there when they look at the problem.

If there is someone in your workplace who represents workers on health and safety issues, they should be there too. This could be:

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Next Steps: 

1. Talk to your supervisor

If you're asked to do something at work that isn't safe, talk to your supervisor or employer about it.

Tell them why you think the job is not safe. Try to work with them to solve the problem.

You could also speak to your health and safety representative, your representative on a Joint Health and Safety Committee, or your union or trade association representative. They may be able to help you assess the danger and work with your employer to solve the problem.

You might need different equipment, more training, or new workplace rules.

If you have any ideas about how to fix the problem, you can tell your employer. But it's also a good idea to listen to their suggestions.

If you have to call the Ministry of Labour, it will help your case to show that you tried to work with your employer. There is more information about contacting the Ministry of Labour in Step 4 below.

Keep notes about conversations

You should make notes about your conversations. In your notes, try to include answers to the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • When did you notice the problem?
  • What equipment is involved?
  • Who is involved?
  • Have you taken any steps to fix the problem?
  • If you asked your employer about it, what did they say?
  • Why do you think the problem is a danger?
  • What might happen if the problem isn’t fixed?

2. Refuse to do work that's not safe

If you and your employer can't agree on how to solve the safety problem and you truly believe that your work is not safe, you can refuse to do it.

Tell your supervisor or employer that:

  • you still think the situation is unsafe
  • you will not work until they fix the problem

If your employer argues with you, you can tell them that you're "exercising your rights" that are part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Refusing to do work is very serious because it starts a special process, which includes a workplace investigation.

You should always first try to find another way to solve the problem. But don’t be afraid to refuse to do a job if you really think it’s dangerous.

Once you refuse to do a job because it's not safe, your employer must investigate the problem.

While this is happening, the law says that your employer cannot:

Your employer must pay you for the time you spent trying to fix the problem or helping your employer to investigate the problem. You should get paid your usual rate of pay for this time.

3. Help investigate the problem

When you refuse to do a task because it's not safe, there are rules your employer must follow. And if you have a health and safety representative or a Joint Health and Safety Committee, they must follow them as well.

Your employer must investigate the problem right away. While they investigate, you should wait in a safe place near the area you work in. You have the right to be there while they investigate.

You and your employer can both suggest ways to solve the problem. If you think the problem has been solved, you should return to work.

Your employer might investigate and then tell you that they think the work is safe.

If you still think the job is dangerous, you don't have to do it.

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4. Contact the Ministry of Labour

If you and your employer can't agree on how to solve the problem, you can call the Ministry of Labour's Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

If you and your employer can't agree on how to solve the problem, you can call the Ministry of Labour's Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

The Ministry of Labour sends an inspector to your workplace to look at the situation and to make sure the rules are being followed.You have the right to be there during the investigation.

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.

You can also have your health and safety representative or representative from a Joint Health and Safety Committee with you.

The inspector decides if the job is safe. They may also order your employer to change something to make the job safe. They can:

  • 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

They will give you a written copy of their decision.

If the inspector says your job is safe, you must return to work.

During the investigation, your employer can give you another job to do. If you have a union, then the new job must be something you're allowed to do under the rules in your collective agreement.

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

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October, 2015

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