Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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Health and Safety: Teaching Tools

I think my employer is breaking safety laws at work...
What can I do?

How high can I work without a safety harness?
How many hours do I have to work before I get paid overtime?
Can my boss really make me do this?

Here is some information that will help if you think your employer might be breaking safety laws at work.

First, yes - there are laws about safety at work. In Canada, it is the occupational health and safety laws that outline the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor and the worker. Each of the ten provinces, three territories and the federal government has its own set of laws (or legislation). In each province or territory, there is an Act - typically called the Occupational Health and Safety Act or something similar - that applies to most workplaces in that region.

About 90% of Canadian workers are covered by the legislation of the province or territory where they work. There are some exceptions (such as in a private home or on a farm) so the legislation should be consulted to find out which workplaces are covered and which are not. The laws of the federal government cover the remaining 10% of workers such as federal government employees or people involved in the transportation, broadcasting, or banking industries.

Second - there are several steps you can take to find out who can help you with your concerns. If your workplace has a health and safety representative, a health and safety committee, company safety officer or a union, you should start by asking these people first. You may also ask your supervisor for help. Check to see if there is a set of reporting procedures that you can follow.

If none of these options resolve your concerns (or if none are available to you), you can call your local government agency that is responsible for health and safety in the workplace. These agencies are often called the "Ministry" or "Department" of Labour. In some areas the Workers Compensation Board handles these responsibilities. The general responsibilities of the government include:

  • enforcement of occupational health and safety legislation,
  • conduct workplace inspections,
  • promote training, education and research, and
  • resolve occupational health and safety disputes.

It is important to make the call if you are concerned about your safety at work. These organizations can answer your questions and calls can be confidential. A list of phone numbers and addresses for these departments is available here.

For more information about your rights and duties in the workplace, visit /oshanswers/legisl/legislation.htm