Refusing to Work in an Unsafe Environment
It is the right of every employee to refuse to work in an unsafe environment. If there are reasonable grounds to believe you or others are carrying out your task in a potentially dangerous environment, you should refuse to work under those conditions. Make an immediate report to your employer or supervisor. This will ensure that appropriate steps are taken to identify the problem and remedy it.
Let’s talk about why refusing to work in an unsafe environment is completely acceptable.
Workers on the front line serve as the eyes and ears of employers when it comes to matters concerning health and workplace safety. Therefore, when employees refuse to work under risky conditions, employers should view this as a remarkable opportunity to probe and make the working conditions right. The human resources of any establishment are its most valuable asset; therefore, everything must be done to contribute to the health and safety of the employees.
If an employee refuses to work in a hazardous situation, workplace procedures should be in place to enable the issue to be properly understood and addressed. Employees have the right to decline to carry out a particular task or job they believe is risky without fear of being disciplined by their employer. Ideally, employers should temporarily assign new tasks to employees to ensure there is no loss in salary.
Below are the steps to follow in a potentially unsafe work environment:
Report the Unsafe Procedure or Condition
Risky conditions must be immediately reported to the person in charge. Employers must investigate the situation and fix the issue, if possible. If it is revealed that the concern of the worker is invalid, this should be reported to him or her.
Prevent Employee Mistrust
To prevent the employee from still viewing the working environment as unsafe, even after you have reported that it is safe, you should ensure there is transparency while the investigation takes place. This means having the investigation conducted in the company of the worker who reported the potential safety breach or an employee selected by the trade union. A representative from a combined health and safety committee should be present as well. If no safety committee is established or there is no representing trade union, the employee who initially made the report can opt for another employee to be present during the investigation.
For unresolved issues, contact WorkSafeBC
If the situation remains unresolved, the employee and employer must contact WorkSafeBC. An investigation will then be carried out by a prevention officer to find a practical solution.
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