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Step 4: Get More Help

Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. To determine your rights and obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA or the Act) and its regulations, please contact your legal counsel or refer to the legislation.

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. 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 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:

1-877-202-0008

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: 1-855-659-7744

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 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:

Ministry of Labour

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.
Call toll-free: 1-877-202-0008

Workers Health & Safety Centre

An occupational health and safety training centre for workers, representatives and employers.
Call toll-free: 1-888-869-7950

Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

Six medical clinics located across Ontario that provide occupational health services and information.
Call toll-free: 1-877-817-0336

Health & Safety Ontario

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.
    Call toll-free: 1-800-263-5024
  • Public Services Health and Safety Association – serves health, education and municipal sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-877-250-7444
  • Workplace Safety North – serves mining, pulp and paper and forestry sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-888-730-7821
  • Workplace Safety and Prevention Services – serves industrial, farming and service sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-877-494-9777

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Administers Ontario’s no-fault workplace insurance for employers and their workers.
Call toll-free: 1-800-387-0750

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.

Organization

  1. Ministry of Labour
  2. Health & Safety Ontario
  3. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
  4. Workers Health & Safety Centre
  5. Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

Purpose

  1. Health and safety training for workers
  2. Enforcement of the OHSA
  3. Medical clinics for injured or sick workers
  4. Insurance benefits for injured or sick workers
  5. Occupational health and safety consulting, training, products and services

Answers:

  1. B
  2. E
  3. D
  4. A
  5. C

Step 4 quiz

Here’s a quiz on the information we’ve covered in Step 4.

YES or NO?

  1. 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’s toll-free number for help.
  2. 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.
  3. Some workers, such as nurses, firefighters and police officers, have a limited right to refuse work.
  4. 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

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. Yes

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