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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!