Across every industry covered by OHSA, there are a set of three basic rights that all workers are entitled to. It is vital that workers and employers alike are aware of these rights, to ensure a fair and equitable working environment for everyone.
What are the three main rights of workers?
The three main rights of workers are:
- The right to know about health and safety matters in the workplace
- The right to participate in decisions that could affect their health and safety
- The right to refuse work that could affect their health and safety and that of others
The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) sets out minimum health and safety standards to protect workers against hazards on the job. These standards apply to almost every worker, supervisor, employer and workplace in Ontario, including constructors, workplace owners, and suppliers of equipment or materials to workplaces that are covered by the OHSA.
The Right to Know
Workers have the right to be informed of all possible hazards that may affect them while at work. There are many different avenues by which employers can make employees aware of possible hazards. These can include: distributing workplace policies, holding regular meetings to discuss risks of current or upcoming jobs, and providing adequate training on how to mitigate risks in the workplace.
By extension, employers and organizations have a duty to adequately and regularly assess and monitor workplace hazards. Any time the nature of work changes – for example if the location, number of employees, or specific task changes – organization stakeholders should re-evaluate the potential risks and any new risks should be mitigated through the use of controls (including administrative controls like training).
The Right to Participate in Decisions
Each worker on a job site has the right to voice their concerns and participate in any decisions that are made in relation to workplace safety, and how risks are addressed.
An example of this is the opportunity to participate in decisions made by a health and safety committee, or to report any observed hazards to a health and safety representative. A key aspect of the right to participate is that employees should feel safe in reporting any safety concerns that they encounter in their workplace. Having a clear policy and process for reporting such concerns can be instrumental in upholding this basic worker right.
The Right to Refuse Work
If a worker believes a task is unsafe for them or another person, they have the right to refuse to perform the work. If this is the case, they must immediately notify their superior (or a representative of the employer). The employee must tell their supervisor why they believe the task is unsafe.
In general, employees have a right to refuse to work if the work environment presents a hazard (subject to limited exceptions). If an employee reports the existence of a hazard within the workplace, the employer must immediately investigate to determine if there is a legitimate concern for safety.
When considering a refusal, both workers and employers should consider the Work Refusal Process Chart.
Have questions about worker rights and how they apply to your industry? Want a review of your internal policies and procedures to ensure they uphold workers’ basic rights? Contact Fluent Motion today. We are experts in occupational health and safety, and we pride ourselves in helping you and your team maintain a safe, effective workplace.