B.C.: More info to be shared on work refusals
By Adam FreillConstruction Health & Safety
Amendments to B.C. safety regulations aim to strengthen worker protections on the right to refuse unsafe work and the reassignment of that work.
Under new rules, employers in B.C. will be required to notify workers in writing of any unresolved work refusal due to safety concerns. Employers will also have to tell any subsequent worker the specific reasons the first worker felt the task was unsafe and explain why the task would not create an undue hazard to the next worker’s health and safety.
The rules, which are based on amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR), are coming into effect on August 22 this year. The change to the OHSR followed an extensive public and stakeholder consultation process by WorkSafeBC.
WorkSafeBC explains that a worker’s right to refuse unsafe work is an integral element in ensuring work is carried out safely. All workers in B.C. have the right to refuse work where there is reasonable cause to believe it would create an undue hazard to their health or safety.
Prior to the amendment, the regulation did not explicitly prohibit the reassignment of refused work, nor was there a requirement to disclose that another worker had refused the task due to health or safety concerns.
“Worker safety is our top priority, and this regulatory change strengthens worker protections,” says Dan Strand, director of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC. “This amendment makes the right to refuse process more transparent and allows workers to make informed decisions.”
The need for this change was identified in a 2019 report by Lisa Helps. During interviews for the report, Helps heard examples of workers expressing safety concerns to their supervisors and refusing to do the work, only to see the same task reassigned to another worker.
“Workers are your eyes and ears on the front line of workplace health and safety,” says Strand. “When workers refuse work, it’s because they believe it’s unsafe. Employers must listen to these concerns, assess the risk with the worker, document the decision, and ensure they take steps to correct the situation that could potentially cause harm.”
Workers or employers with questions about the right to refuse unsafe work can contact WorkSafeBC’s prevention information line toll-free at 1-888-621-7233.
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