Workers also have an important role in making their workplace healthy and safe.
Under The Saskatchewan Employment Act, workers must:
- Understand and comply with legislation and workplace health and safety requirements;
- Follow safe work procedures;
- Use safety equipment, machine guards, safety devices, and personal protective equipment;
- Report unsafe acts and workplace hazards;
- Report incidents (meaning accidents and dangerous occurrences), injuries, or illnesses immediately;
- Work and act safely and helping others to work and act safely;
- Co-operate with the occupational health committee and others on health and safety issues; and
- Refrain from causing or participating in the harassment of another worker.
Knowing Your Rights
You have three basic rights under The Saskatchewan Employment Act.
- The right to know the hazards at work and how to control them;
- The right to participate in finding and controlling workplace hazards; and
- The right to refuse work that you believe is unusually dangerous.
Right to Know
You have the right to get information about hazards in the workplace. If your employer doesn’t tell you, ask! Ensure you know where the potential hazards are at your workplace.
Hazards are anything that has the potential to cause an injury or illness.
For example, if you work in a restaurant, your employer must explain the safe way to do your job. This may include how to:
- Handle the compressed gas cylinders with soft drink dispensers;
- Use and clean deep fryers; and
- Prevent repetitive strain and back injuries.
Right to Participate
Become involved in health and safety at work. Every Saskatchewan workplace with 10 or more workers MUST have a worker/management occupational health committee (OHC). High hazard workplaces with 5-9 workers must have an occupational health and safety representative (OHS representative).
Committees are responsible for:
- Conducting regular inspections of the workplace to identify and control or eliminate safety hazards;
- Ensuring workers’ health and safety concerns are appropriately handled;
- Assisting workers with occupational health and safety related policies, procedures, and issues;
- Investigating incidents that may happen at the place of employment; and
- Investigating when someone refuses to perform a job or task that they believe is unusually dangerous.
If your supervisor is unable to help you with your safety concerns, discuss the concerns with your Occupational Health Committee or Occupational Health and Safety representative.
Right to Refuse
You have the right to refuse to do any specific job or task which you have reasonable grounds to believe is unusually dangerous. The danger may be to you or to any other person. An unusual danger could include:
- A danger that is not normal for the job (e.g., repairing a roof in dangerous winds);
- A danger that would normally stop work (e.g., operating a forklift with a flat tire); or
- A situation for which you are not properly trained, equipped, or experienced to do the work assigned (e.g., cleaning windows on a tall building with no fall protection equipment or training).
You cannot be fired or disciplined for using this right. Occupational Health and Safety provides procedures to be followed when refusing.
Steps for Refusing Unusually Dangerous Work
If your supervisor/employer asks you to perform a specific job or task that you have grounds to believe is unusually dangerous, follow these steps:
- Tell your employer/supervisor that you are refusing work because of a health or safety concern;
- Do not leave the worksite without your employer's permission;
- Contact your occupational health committee (OHC) or OHS representative if you cannot resolve the concern with the employer/supervisor;
- Your OHC will investigate the refusal, meet and vote to determine if you have reasonable grounds to refuse the work. (The vote must be unanimous for or against the refusal.);
- If the concern cannot be resolved within your workplace, contact an occupational health officer at the Occupational Health and Safety Division.
- The officer will investigate the refusal and rule on the matter.
Your place of employment may have its own procedures for refusing unusually dangerous work. Ask your supervisor, occupational health committee, occupational health and safety representative, and/or union steward for information.