What Laws Apply To You?

The health and safety laws that apply to you depends on where you work. Normally most of us fall under provincial or territorial regulations, but some workers may fall under federal regulations.

This is true if you work for the federal government, crown corporations or special interprovincial undertakings such as railways, telephone companies, banks, shipping, air transport, radio, television or cable. Your employer will have a copy of the applicable Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act and Regulation available in your workplace. The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) applies to all Canadian workplaces that have regulated chemicals and materials.

Acts, Regulations, Guides and Codes

  • Act
    • Establishes the Legal Authority
      • General Principles
      • Rights
      • Responsibilities
  • Regulations
    • Outlines the Legal Rules
      • Safety Requirements
      • Exposure Limits
      • WHMIS
  • Guidelines and Codes
    • Outlines and Details
      • Testing Procedures
      • Instrumentation
      • Record Keeping

Roles and Responsibilities Under the Law

The purpose of workplace health and safety legislation is to protect you, the worker, against hazards on the job. It outlines the general rights and responsibilities of the employer, the supervisor and the worker. The basic elements are as follows:

Government’s Responsibilities

  • to enforce occupational health and safety legislation
  • to conduct workplace inspections
  • to make information available
  • to promote training, education and research

Employer’s Responsibilities

  • to establish and maintain a Health and Safety Committee (HSC), or select at least one health and safety (H&S) representative
  • to take every reasonable precaution to ensure safe workplaces
  • to train employees about any potential hazards
  • to supply personal protective equipment and ensure workers know how to use the equipment safely and properly
  • to immediately report all critical injuries
  • to the government department responsible for occupational health and safety or compensation
  • to train all employees on how to safely use, handle, store and dispose of hazardous substances and handle emergencies

Worker’s Responsibilities

  • to work in compliance with the OH&S Act and regulations
  • to use personal protective equipment and clothing as directed by the employer
  • to report workplace hazards and dangers

Worker's Rights

Each and every worker in Canada has three rights...

  1. The Right to Know
  2. The Right to Participate
  3. The Right to Refuse Dangerous Work

Read more about these Rights and Responsibilities and make sure you know, understand and exercise them.

Health and Safety Committees

If your workplace has a HSC, there are certain rules that apply. The committee must be made up of one half management and at least one half labour representatives, and must be co-chaired by one management chairperson and one worker chairperson. The employee representatives are elected or selected by the workers or their union. They must also meet as specified in the regulation for your area.

This is what HSCs do:

  • act as an advisory body;
  • identify hazards and obtain information;
  • recommend corrective actions;
  • assist in resolving work refusal cases;
  • participate in accident investigations and workplace inspections.

Work Refusals

You can refuse work if you have reason to believe that the situation is unsafe to either yourself or your co-workers. This is the procedure you should follow:

  • You must report to your supervisor that you are refusing to work and state why you believe that the situation is unsafe.
  • You, your supervisor, and a HSC member or worker representative will investigate.
  • You return to work if the problem is solved.
  • If the problem is not resolved, a government health and safety inspector is called.
  • Your supervisor may assign you reasonable alternative work
  • Inspector investigates and gives a decision.
Back to Work graph. You can refuse work if you have reason to believe that the situation is unsafe to either yourself or your co-workers. This is the procedure you should follow