The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives a worker the right to refuse work that he or she believes is unsafe to himself/ herself or another worker. A worker who believes that he or she is endangered by workplace violence may also refuse work.

The Act sets out a specific procedure that must be followed in any work refusal. It is important that workers, employers, supervisors, members of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) and health and safety representatives understand the procedure for a lawful work refusal.

First stage

  1. Worker considers work unsafe.
  2. Worker reports refusal to his/her supervisor or employer. Worker may also wish to advise the worker safety representative and/or management representative. Worker stays in safe place.
  3. Employer or supervisor investigates in the presence of the worker and the worker safety representative.
  4. Either:
    1. Issue resolved. Worker goes back to work.
    2. Issue not resolved. Proceed to the second stage

Second stage

  1. With reasonable grounds to believe work is still unsafe, worker continues to refuse and remains in safe place. Worker or employer or someone representing worker or employer calls MLTSD.
  2. MLTSD Inspector investigates in company of worker, safety representative and supervisor or management representative.*
  3. Inspector gives decision to worker, management representative/supervisor and safety representative in writing.
  4. Changes are made if required or ordered. Worker returns to work.

* Pending the MLTSD investigation:

  • The refusing worker may be offered other work if it doesn't conflict with a collective agreement
  • Refused work may be offered to another worker, but management must inform the new worker that the offered work is the subject of work refusal. This must be done in the presence of:
    • a member of the joint health and safety committee who represents workers; or
    • a health and safety representative, or
    • a worker who because of his or her knowledge, experience and training is selected by the trade union that represents the worker or, if there is not trade union, by the workers to represent them.