No matter where you work, you have rights under the OHS Act to protect yourself. These rights hold employers to high standards for a safe environment where the work is performed. If they are deemed to be out of compliance, they can face fines and other penalties. Should you get hurt on the job, they may have to pay you compensation. This can include lost wages and the cost of your medical care.
What is the OHS Act?
If you aren’t familiar with the OHS Act, it is a good idea to learn the basics. OHS is short for Occupational Health and Safety. They are dedicated to promoting safe work practices, even in higher-risk jobs. Employees have the responsibility to follow safety instructions and ask for clarification if they aren’t sure how to perform a task correctly. Employees have to report any injuries, even minor ones, to their supervisor.
Employers have to take reasonable action to identify and resolve any safety issues in the workplace. For some issues, it is as simple as putting out signs to remind employees the floors may be slippery. In other instances, there are harnesses and other elaborate safety equipment involved. Such equipment must have procedures in place for testing and maintenance to ensure it works properly.
Some jobs are more hazardous than others, it is the nature of that career. However, the employer has a legal obligation to point out such hazards to employees. They should develop a quality orientation program to cover these important issues before the employee actually takes part in that job role.
There can be many different hazards within a business, and what an employee is exposed to depends on their specific job. The employer has the obligation to provide safety and training for equipment and awareness to reduce the risk of injuries due to such hazards. The best practices should be provided to employees along with safety equipment.
Participate in Problem Solving and Awareness
Employees have a right to participate in problem solving and awareness for overall health and safety on the job. Employers should encourage employee groups to meet as a way to represent any potential problems. Those in leadership roles should report any potential risks identified so they can be addressed and resolved timely. Employees should know this chain of command and who to report any concerns to.
If an employer is known to ignore health or safety issues in the work environment, they can be found negligent. They may be held financially responsible for any injuries or health problems relating to a lack of effort on their part to prevent the problem from continuing. If someone is seriously injured or killed, the employer may face criminal charges due to negligence.
The committees that oversee problem solving and awareness also evaluate any reports of employees not doing what they should. Cutting corners with safety requirements isn’t acceptable. The employee may be given more training or they may be written up for not following the policies. If the issue puts them or others at risk, they may be terminated.
Refusal to Complete Dangerous Work Tasks
Under the OHS Act Section 19, employees have the legal right to refuse to take part in dangerous work tasks. If they feel the task is dangerous to their health or safety or dangerous to another employee, they have a basis for refusal. The employer can’t fire or reprimand an employee for voicing those concerns.
There are some exceptions though. For example, if you apply for and accept a job and the dangerous work tasks that come with that position, you are expected to complete them. However, you can refuse to do so if you don’t feel you have had adequate training or the right training equipment to safely perform those tasks.
If you feel a task is too dangerous, immediately discuss the situation with your supervisor. If you can resolve the conflict you can return to the task when you feel it is safe to do so. If you can’t come to an agreement, report the situation to your safety committee for review. If they can’t look into it immediately, you can call WorkSafeNB at 1-800-999-9775.
Your employer can assign you to other tasks while the situation is reviewed and evaluated. They can’t fire you or send you home. Complete your shift as it was assigned to you and complete other tasks given to you as long as you deem them safe to complete. The employer shouldn’t assign anyone else to complete the task in question while it is under review.
File a Complaint Against an Employer
Employers are aware of the rights employees have under the OHS Act. As a result, many of them have excellent orientation and training programs in place. They continue to evaluate the workplace for risks and find solutions to keep everyone safe. Employees have a responsibility for their safety and the safety of those around them. Understanding these rights and exercising them can prevent injuries, the loss of body parts, or the loss of life.
If you feel an employer is ignoring safety-related issues, don’t let it go unreported. File a complaint and it will be investigated. Call 1-800-222-9775 and provide as many details about the incident as you can. You are protected under these regulations, and your employer can’t fire you for filing a complaint of this nature.