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Workers can refuse unsafe work to avoid workplace injury

Some workers in British Columbia may not realize that they have the right to refuse job tasks that would threaten their safety. Employers must provide safety training and personal protective gear to protect employees from conditions that could cause a workplace injury.

If you feel unsafe at work, you must follow the appropriate steps when reporting hazardous conditions. The first step is to notify your employer or supervisor of the hazard. The employer must address the matter without punishing you for refusing to carry out orders.

Preliminary investigation

While investigating the complaint, the employer may not discipline you in any way. You may be assigned a different task without any wage losses. This will allow the employer to fix the problem. If the employer finds the complaint to be invalid, they must inform you, and you will then have the right to ask for another examination of the reported danger.

Follow-up actions

The employer must reinvestigate the matter, this time with you present. You may also have a union safety official or a co-worker present during this process. If the issue cannot be resolved, you and the employer or supervisor must inform WorkSafeBC, who will then appoint a prevention officer to investigate the matter and take the necessary steps to find a solution.

It is not uncommon for workers to continue to risk workplace injury without reporting dangers because they fear retaliation, including the possibility of being fired. However, any worker in British Columbia also has the right to consult with a lawyer who has experience in matters related to employment laws. Legal counsel can assess your workplace circumstances and explain the available options, which can enable you to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

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