Step 4: Get more help
You are not alone
It’s a sad fact that in some workplaces, nobody pays much attention to safety. In those workplaces, it’s all about doing the work as quickly as possible. If someone questions the way things are being done, they may get a dirty look but nothing is done to make things safer. People in workplaces like that are often afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to get fired. So they keep quiet.
Maybe you felt that way on a past job. That’s why it’s important to know that you are not alone. Help is always available from outside the workplace.
If you see something unsafe that could hurt someone, you need to report it to your supervisor or your employer. It’s also a good idea to tell your health and safety representative or committee if there is one. But if the employer or supervisor doesn’t fix the problem, you can call the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. The Ministry’s job is to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses through enforcing the OHSA. They want to know if there are problems that aren’t being fixed.
Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors can’t be in all workplaces at all times. But the Ministry wants to hear if there’s a problem on the job that isn’t fixed anywhere in Ontario. So it has a toll-free number that you can call. Calling that number connects you to the Health and Safety Contact Centre that takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you don’t want to give your name when you call the Health and Safety Contact Centre, you don’t have to. Here is the number:
Remember we mentioned reprisals before? It’s against the law for your employer or your supervisor to fire or punish you for doing what the OHSA expects you to do, or because you asked them to do what the OHSA expects them to do. It’s even against the law for your employer or supervisor to threaten to fire or punish you for these things. The OHSA is very clear on this.
If you feel that your employer is taking action against you for raising a health and safety concern, you can discuss it with a union official if you are a member of a union, or bring a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. If you’re not sure what to do, you can call the Ministry’s toll-free number for information. The Office of the Worker Adviser also provides free advice and representation to non-unionized workers who are in this situation. You can call their toll-free number for help:
The right to refuse unsafe work
If you have reason to believe that the work you are doing or the equipment you are using might hurt you or someone you work with, you can refuse to do that work. This means that you tell your employer or supervisor (and your health and safety representative or committee) that you think you are in danger and you are not going to do the work. You need to tell them why.
All workers have the right to refuse work if they have reason to believe it’s dangerous. It’s important to know that you can also refuse work if you have reason to believe that the area where you are working is likely to endanger you or any other worker, or that you are in danger from workplace violence.
You must report the situation to your supervisor or employer, and should also contact your health and safety representative or committee. Most of the time, your supervisor or employer and your safety representative or committee member will be able to solve the problem. If the problem isn’t fixed or you still have reason to believe the work is unsafe, you can continue to refuse the work. A Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspector will then be called in to investigate.
Some workers, such as nurses, firefighters and police officers cannot refuse work if the danger is a normal part of their job or if refusing work would put someone else in danger. Talk to your union, other workplace representatives, supervisor or employer if you think your right to refuse work may be limited by the work you do.
More information and resources
Ontario has a health and safety “system” which includes the following partners:
Develops, communicates and enforces occupational health and safety requirements and employment standards. Develops, coordinates and implements strategies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and can set standards for health and safety training.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes worldwide, and is happening right here in Ontario, including for labour exploitation. There have been labour trafficking cases involving construction, manufacturing, mining, hospitality, salons, agriculture, domestic work, sales and other industries.
People who are at heightened risk of labour trafficking include:
- migrant workers
- newcomers to Canada
- people with uncertain immigration status
- people who are homeless
- people who do not speak English or French
Labour traffickers often take away passports and other documents, and sometimes control where the person stays. Debt bondage is a form of labour trafficking where a person is told they must work to pay off a large, unexpected and illegal debt.
People in other countries and newcomers may be recruited by someone from their home country or from Canada who makes false promises about what a job is and how much it pays. The person may not know their rights in Ontario, may not know how to get help and may fear reporting to police.
There are different ways to get help if you or someone you know is being trafficked or is at risk:
- If there is immediate danger or if you suspect someone is being trafficked, call 911 or your local police services.
- For information and support, contact Canada’s confidential human trafficking hotline:
- You can learn about what human trafficking is, how it can happen, signs to look out for, and where to go for help by visiting Ontario’s Human Trafficking webpage.
An occupational health and safety training centre for workers, representatives and employers.
Six medical clinics located across Ontario that provide occupational health services and information.
Health and safety associations
Four health and safety associations that provide sector specific consulting, training, products and services.
- Infrastructure Health and Safety Association – serves electrical, construction and transportation sectors.
- Public Services Health and Safety Association – serves health, education and municipal sectors.
- Workplace Safety North – serves mining, pulp and paper and forestry sectors.
- Workplace Safety and Prevention Services – serves industrial, farming and service sectors.
Administers Ontario’s no-fault workplace insurance for employers and their workers.
The system is there to serve everyone in the workplace – employers, supervisors and workers.
These organizations are part of Ontario’s health and safety system. Another place you can go for information is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. They have information and fact sheets on their website. If you are having trouble finding information, you can ask questions by telephone at 1-800-668-4284 or through their website.
“Prevention Starts Here,” but it doesn’t end here.
To help you understand how Ontario’s prevention system works together to help create safer workplaces, try to match the following list of organizations to their purpose.
- Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
- Health and safety associations
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
- Workers Health & Safety Centre
- Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers
- Health and safety training for workers
- Enforcement of the OHSA
- Medical clinics for injured or sick workers
- Insurance benefits for injured or sick workers
- Occupational health and safety consulting, training, products and services
Step 4 quiz
Here’s a quiz on the information we’ve covered in Step 4.
Yes or no?
- If you report a dangerous situation to your supervisor and your health and safety representative and they can’t find a way to fix it, you can call the Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development’s toll-free number for help.
- If you have reason to believe the equipment you are using might hurt you or someone you work with, you have the legal right to refuse the work.
- Some workers, such as nurses, firefighters and police officers, have a limited right to refuse work.
- It’s against the law for your employer or your supervisor to fire or punish you for doing what the OHS Act expects you to do, or for asking them to do what the OHS Act expects them to do.
Answers to Step 4 quiz