CUPE3913 Newsletter October 2022

Hi everyone,

Below the newsletter, you’ll find additional, more detailed information regarding the right to refuse work.

The right to refuse work

The Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives a worker the right to refuse work that they believe is unsafe to themselves. A worker who believes that they are endangered by workplace violence may also refuse work. All you need is a feeling or belief that the work is unsafe. The Act sets out a specific procedure that must be followed in any work refusal. You must tell your supervisor that you are refusing unsafe work and why. Following that, reach out to your union for immediate support. It is important to note that you should not leave the workplace otherwise that could be considered walking off the job. You should stay at the workplace, in a safe spot. If your supervisor gives you safe work to do, you must complete that work. Continue reading for a complete breakdown of steps to follow to refuse unsafe work legally.

Procedure for a work refusal:

First stage

  1. Worker considers work unsafe.
  2. Worker reports refusal to their supervisor or employer. Worker should also advise the worker safety representative and/or union immediately. 
  3. Worker stays in safe place.
  4. Employer or supervisor investigates in the presence of the worker and the worker safety representative.
  5. Either:
    • Issue resolved. Worker goes back to work.
    • 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. 
  2. Worker or employer or someone representing worker or employer calls the Ministry.
  3. A Ministry Inspector investigates in company of worker, safety representative and supervisor or management representative.*
  4. Inspector gives decision to worker, management representative/supervisor and safety representative in writing.
  5. Changes are made if required or ordered.
  6. Worker returns to work.

*Pending the Ministry investigation:

  1. The refusing worker may be offered other work if it doesn’t conflict with the collective agreement.
  2. 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 their knowledge, experience and training is selected by the union.


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