You have the right to be safe at work

More than 21,000 workers in Saskatchewan are injured on the job each year.

All workers, no matter your age, where you come from or what kind of work you do, have the right to get home safely. Knowing your rights at work and how to use them can protect not just yourself but your co-workers from workplace injuries.

Know how to use your workplace rights

There are three important rights all workers have to stay safe on the job. These rights are protected under the Saskatchewan Employment Act.

Click on a “right” to learn more and ace a quiz!

What does the “right to know” mean?

If you don’t have the training, you can speak up.

The right to know means that your employer needs to tell you about the hazards in your workplace and how to protect yourself and others.

A hazard is anything that might cause an injury or illness. As a worker, you have the right to the training, information and supervision needed to do your job safely. Your employer should tell you how to stay safe before work begins.

  • Workplace hazards identified during day-to-day operations and how a workplace inspection went.
  • Steps to take for daily pre-use inspections of tools and how to use equipment and machinery safely.
  • How to report sub-standard or hazardous working conditions.
  • Specific procedures for various types of work (e.g. working in a confined space, working alone, working at heights).
  • Safe work policies, procedures and codes of practice as required by both the legislation and the workplace.
  • Emergency procedures, such as emergency evacuation, first aid, incident reporting and investigation procedures.

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is used by many workplaces to provide information about the use, handling and storage of hazardous materials.

Training and instructions can be given online, in writing or in person. It can come from a supervisor, co-worker or someone outside of your workplace, but your employer must pay for all training that is part of your job.

Clear communication is also included in the right to know. Your employer needs to give you the information you require to do your job safely in a way that you can understand.


How to use this right

If you don’t know or are unsure how to do a task safely, ask questions. Always ask for information or training when you are given a new task, tool or material to do your work.

Example:

It’s your first day as a server at one of your favourite restaurants. Before you start work, your employer needs to give you the right information to do your job safely.

All new workers must have a workplace training session. You learn how to safely handle the soft drink dispensers because they use compressed air cylinders. You also learn how to use and clean the deep fryers without getting hurt, and how to prevent strains, sprains and back injuries.

As a new employee, your first shift is all about learning what to do and how to do it safely.

What does the “” mean?

If you see something unsafe, you can help make it right.

The right to participate gives you the freedom to get involved in your workplace’s health and safety activities. You have the right to share your concerns and ideas about how to make your workplace safer.

How to use this right

  • Report concerns to your supervisor or manager if you find a health and safety issue that could cause harm to you or your co-workers.
  • Make suggestions to your supervisor or occupational health committee about how to make your workplace safer.
  • Join your occupational health committee (if your workplace requires one).
  • Act as an occupational health and safety representative for your workplace, if given the opportunity.

If your supervisor cannot help with your safety concerns, you should talk to the occupational health committee or an occupational health and safety representative.

  • Inspect the workplace regularly to find any hazards and control or eliminate them.
  • Make sure workers’ health and safety concerns are handled properly.
  • Help workers with health and safety policies, procedures and issues.
  • Investigate any incidents (injuries or illnesses) that happen at work.
  • Investigate if someone refuses to do a job or task that they believe is unusually dangerous.
  • Help employers observe occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation.

For more information about occupational health and safety committees, visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website.

Register and take WorkSafe’s Occupational Health Committee Level 1 or 2 training. To register and take the online equivalent of the Occupational Health Committee Level 2 course, complete both the Workplace Incident Investigation course and the Workplace Inspection Training course.

Example:

You’ve been working at a grocery store for over a year. There is one set of swinging doors that act as an entrance and exit to the storage area at the back of the store.

You have seen a few incidents where workers who use these doors at the same time bump into each other and the door hits one of the workers. Luckily, no one has been badly injured, but you have some ideas about how to make these doors safer. The first would be to add windows so workers can see oncoming traffic. The second would be putting up signs that say workers must enter through one door and exit through the other.

You brought these ideas to both your supervisor and the occupational health committee (OHC). Everyone agreed that these doors were an issue and your suggestions were approved.

The changes were made to make the doors safer for everyone.

You have a right to bring up ongoing issues or safety ideas to both your manager and/or the OHC. The right to participate is about improving the safety of your workplace for everyone.

What does the “” mean?

If the task is too risky, you can say no.

The right to refuse means that you can say no to work that you believe to be unusually dangerous to yourself or others. This right is protected under the Saskatchewan Employment Act and you cannot be fired for speaking up about your concerns.

Every workplace has hazards. Not all hazards are considered unusually dangerous. An unusual danger or hazard could include:

  • A danger that would normally stop work, like operating a forklift that has a flat tire.
  • Something that is not normal for the job, like repairing a roof in bad weather with dangerous winds.
  • A situation you haven’t been properly trained for, or where you don’t have the right equipment or experience to do the work safely. For example, cleaning windows on a tall building without any training or fall protection equipment.

The right to refuse is only used when the first two rights have failed to protect your health and safety in the workplace. Using your right to refuse is serious and should not be taken lightly.

While the right to refuse should not be used casually, you should not be afraid to speak up when you believe your work is unusually dangerous. If you or the people around you are at risk, you can say no.

You cannot be disciplined or fired for using your right to refuse.

How to use this right

1. Stop performing the task. Tell your supervisor what you think is unusually dangerous about the task.

Your supervisor needs to listen to your workplace health and safety concerns.

  • If your supervisor determines the task is unusually dangerous, they must take steps to satisfy you so you are comfortable performing the task.
  • If your supervisor determines the task is not unusually dangerous, they need to explain why.

2. Talk to your workplace occupational health committee (OHC) if you and your supervisor can’t reach a solution.

If you are not satisfied with your supervisor’s solution and your workplace has an OHC, let the committee know about your concerns in writing. They must investigate the matter and provide a decision on their findings. The OHC’s decision must be unanimous.

Your employer has the right to give you other work to do while the investigation is being conducted. They also can assign another worker to complete the task you refused, but only after they have informed the worker in writing of the refusal, the reasons for the refusal and why they think the work can be safely completed by the new worker. The employer must also inform the employee of their right to refuse to perform the task.

3. If the matter is not resolved, contact the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety’s Occupational Health and Safety Division.

If the matter is not resolved, or if your workplace does not have an OHC, the next step is to contact the Occupational Health and Safety Division.

To report unsafe work in Saskatchewan, call the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety at 1.800.567.7233 (SAFE).

An occupational health officer will provide their decision in writing to you and your employer.

  • If the officer determines the task is unusually dangerous, they will provide the employer with actions that need to be taken.
  • If the officer determines the task is not unusually dangerous, they will advise you that you are no longer entitled to refuse to perform the task.

4. Appeal the occupational health officer’s decision.

If you don’t agree with the occupational health officer’s decision, you have a right to appeal. The officer’s decision stands during the appeal process.

  • To file an appeal, you need to send a printed notice of appeal to the Director of Occupational Health and Safety. This must be sent within 15 business days from the date of the health and safety officer’s decision.
  • Your notice of appeal needs to include the following information:
    • the occupational health officer’s decision you are appealing
    • the name of everyone who is directly affected by the decision
    • the reason(s) you believe the decision should be changed
    • changes you think need to be made to the decision

Tips:

  • If you have refused work, write down your concerns about the dangerous task or job, the people you have spoken to and the outcome of any conversations throughout the process.
  • Your workplace might have their own procedures for refusing unusually dangerous work. Ask your supervisor, occupational health committee, occupational health and safety representative and/or union steward for more information.
Example:

Watch the video below for an example of exercising your right to refuse. Unfortunately, too often workers decide not to speak up when they are uncomfortable with a task and injuries or fatalities occur.

It is important to speak up!

Helpful Resources