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Yes. Every person employed in Canada has the right to a safe work environment. In each jurisdiction, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (or equivalent) is based on the internal responsibility system (IRS). IRS requires that everyone at or associated with the workplace takes responsibility for their own health and safety and the health and safety of those around them. This responsibility includes employers, employees, owners, contractors, sub-contractors, contracting employers, and suppliers.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act or equivalent in your jurisdiction entitles all workers to three rights:
The right to know means that as a worker, you have the right to be informed by the employer of known or likely hazards in the workplace, and to be provided with the information, instructions, education, training, and supervision necessary to protect your health and safety. This information should be provided before the work begins.
For example, information can be in the form of product labels, safety data sheets, safe work procedures, or codes of practice. Instructions can be verbal or in writing, and be provided by a supervisor, another employee at the workplace, or external providers. Training can be workplace specific, delivered by someone in the workplace, on-line, or be provided by outside agencies as long as it meets the needs of the employer and worker for your workplace.
As examples, areas of information include (but are not limited to):
Meeting the requirements of WHMIS, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, is often cited as an example of how to meet a worker's right to know about the chemical and biological material hazards from the products they work with.
The right to know may also include the form of communication used, and include using methods that assist workers who may need instructions in a different language, Braille, large print, audiotapes, sign language, or oral communication.
This right allows workers to have input on the steps taken by the employer to ensure health and safety.
Workers can provide input on what would make the workplace safe by:
Please see the various OSH Answers documents about Health and Safety Committees for more information about a committee's duties and responsibilities.
The right to refuse is normally used when the first two rights fail to ensure your health and safety. Exercising this right is serious and should not be done lightly or as a routine method of solving workplace problems.
However, workers should not be afraid to exercise their right to refuse when they believe that the work will endanger their health or safety, or that of others. The right to refuse process involves several steps.
Please see the OSH Answers on the right to refuse for more details.