Right to Know, Right to Participate, Right to Refuse

The Right to Know
You have the right to know the hazards in your job. Your employer or supervisor must tell you about anything in your job that can hurt you. Your employer must make sure you are provided with the information you need so that you can work safely.
What is WHMIS?
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a Canada-wide system designed to give employers and workers information about hazardous materials used in the workplace.
Under WHMIS, there are three ways in which information on hazardous materials is to be provided:
  1. Labels on the containers of hazardous materials;
  2. Material safety data sheets to supplement the label with detailed hazard and precautionary information; and
  3. Worker education programs.
The supplier of the hazardous material provides the labels and material safety data sheets to the employer. The employer passes the information on to the worker and provides education  programs.
The Right to Participate
You have the right to take part in keeping your workplace healthy and safe. Depending on the size of the company, you can be part of the Health and Safety Committee or be a Health and Safety Representative.You also have the right to participate in training and information sessions to help you do your job safely.
How to Participate
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives you the right to participate in health and safety decisions in your workplace. Depending on the size of your workplace, you can participate through a health and safety committee, as a worker health and safety representative or simply by providing suggestions through your supervisor or worker representative on the committee.
Workplaces with 20 or more workers or where a designated substance regulation applies, require the employer to form and maintain a health and safety committee.
The committee is made up of management and workers who meet to identify and recommend solutions to health and safety problems. They make sure that health and safety concerns are brought into the open and are kept there until they are fixed. One of the committee’s important duties is to do regular inspections of the workplace to identify any health and safety issues.
Workplaces with six to 19 workers where there is no health and safety committee required, and some construction projects, still need a health and safety representative for the workers. The  workers choose this representative and he or she deals with health and safety problems in the workplace much the same way health and safety committees do.
For all health and safety concerns, talk to your supervisor. Afterwards, you can talk to your health and safety representative or members of the health and safety committee. Ask questions and keep asking them until you get answers you understand.
The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
If you believe your job is likely to endanger you, you have an obligation to report the unsafe situation to management. If the situation is not corrected and you feel your health and safety is still in danger, you have the right under the OHSA to refuse to perform the work without reprisal.
  • When you’ve talked to your supervisor (and maybe others), and you still have reason to believe that the work you have been asked to do may endanger your safety or the safety of those around you, you have the right under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to refuse to perform the work.
  • Tell your supervisor that you believe that the situation is not safe, and that you will not continue the work until the situation is made right. If necessary, let them know that you are exercising your right under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to refuse work. Make sure there’s no doubt that it’s not a discussion or a complaint investigation, but that you’re refusing to perform the work until they do something about your concerns
There is a set procedure that the worker member of the health and safety committee or a health and safety representative and your supervisor will be required to follow:
  • The rules say they must investigate the problem.
  • You will wait in a safe place while they do this.
  • You will be an important part of the investigation, as you will be the one to decide if the problem that caused you to refuse to work has been fixed.
  • If the problem is resolved, and most are, you return to work.
Everyone has this right even if they think it’s unsafe but are unsure.

PDF: The Right to Know, Right to Participate, Right to Refuse

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact the
Windsor Workers’ Education Centre.
328 Pelissier St. Windsor Ontario
(519) 252-1212
Ontario Trillium Foundation
WWEC is partially funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation