Workers are entitled to a safe workplace environment. Employers must comply with prescribed regulations regarding workplace health and safety, and employees may have a right to refuse work in unsafe conditions. Employers should encourage workers to report potential hazards in the workplace and then take proactive steps to address dangerous situations. By doing so, employers will not only ensure the safety of workers in the workplace, but they may also avoid financial consequences (and in some cases, criminal liability) associated with disregarding occupational health and safety.
If there is any indication that conditions are unsafe and performing a task may result in harm to the employee or a co-worker, the employee may refuse to do the task until proper safety precautions are in place. The worker must report the hazardous conditions to the employer or a supervisor immediately and give the reasons why he or she considers the assignment to be unsafe. The employer hsould promptly investigate the matter and ensure any unsafe condition is fixed. If the employer determines that the report is not valid, the employer must inform the worker who made the report.
If the employer determins the worker’s concern is not valid, but the worker maintains his or her safety concerns, the employer must allow the employee to be present during the investigation, along with a worker representative of the joint health and safety committee, or a trade union representative. If a safety committee or union representative is unavailable, any other reasonably available worker can be selected by the employee to be present during the investigation. This also applies to circumstances in which there are concerns about the absence of required personal protective equipment.
If the matter remains unresolved and the worker continues to refuse to carry out the work, the issue must be reported to WorkSafeBC by the worker and the employer. A WorkSafeBC prevention officer will then take steps to find a workable solution. Until the matter is resolved, the employer may temporarily re-assign the worker to another assignment so long as there is no loss in pay to the worker. If the worker suffers an injury at the workplace in the course of employment, he or she may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation. An injured worker may choose to seek the support and guidance of an experienced British Columbia workers’ compensation lawyer to navigate the claims process for them.