British Columbia workers have the right to safe work environments, but that’s not all. Under occupational health and safety legislation across Canada — as exemplified in BC’s Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation — three main rights of employees include the right to know, the right to participate and the right to refuse dangerous work.
The right to know means that workers are entitled to be informed of known and potential safety hazards they might encounter on the job. Before work begins, employers must provide training, education, instructions and other relevant information to protect workers from injury or illness. All this must be provided in languages that the workers understand. Furthermore, employers must ensure that adequate supervision is in place.
The right to participate ensures that workers are allowed input in matters that involve their safety and health. Workers must feel free to report hazardous conditions that might cause harm to them and/or their co-workers. Moreover, workers must have the opportunity to suggest methods in which to improve safety in the workplace. The right to refuse can be used when any of the other two rights fail to provide a safe work environment. Workers who believe that their health and safety would be compromised may refuse to do a dangerous task until steps are taken to limit the hazards.
This is but a brief discussion about the rights to health and safety of workers in British Columbia. Any case in which workers are denied these rights involves specific steps that workers must take to exercise their rights. In most cases, the best first steps would be to consult with an experienced employment law lawyer. Legal counsel can assess the circumstances and explain the available legal actions, including filing a report to WorkSafeBC.