When You Have a Safety Concern at Work

Last year, workplace deaths increased by 16% in Ontario.

(Source: http://www.thestar.com/business/companies/article/1023272–workplace-deaths-climb-in-ontario)

Too many workers either don’t come home, or fall victim to occupational illnesses (which are often unreported).

As an employee (or a future employee), it is important that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  According to the Act, here are the steps that you should take when you have a health and safety concern:

Step One:  Talk to your supervisor/employer.  The first step is to address your concerns with your manager.  This gives them the opportunity to fix the situation.  Do it in a way that is professional and respectful.  Remember that most managers want their employees to be safe and that if there are unsafe conditions at your workplace, it is likely because they are not aware of it.

Step Two:  Talk to your Joint Health and Safety Committee Representative.  If after speaking to your manager, you still feel that your working conditions are unsafe, the next step is to address your concerns with your Health and Safety Committee.  It may even be a good idea to join this committee to give you a stronger voice on health and safety issues at your organization.

Step Three:  Contact the Ministry of Labour.  If the situation has not improved, you can contact the Ministry of Labour.  Keep in mind that these reports are taken very seriously and that your employer will likely not be happy with it.  It is only recommended that you take this step if you are sure that the situation warrants it.

Step Four:  The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work.  Workers in Ontario have the right to refuse unsafe work.  However, there is a clearly outlined procedure in Section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act that must be followed.  It is important that workers understand the process before initiating their right to refuse work.

Here are some other suggestions to help you stay safe on the job:

Take a look at your own behaviour.  It is important that you also look at your own actions.  Is there anything that you could be doing to improve the safety of yourself and your co-workers on the job?  Are you following the established safety procedures?  Are you consistently wearing your personal protective equipment?

Be positive and constructive.  When addressing health and safety concerns, it is best to do so in a way that will be perceived as positive and constructive.  Employers will not be as receptive to your concerns if they perceive you to be whiny or confrontational.  Show your employer that you care about safety and that you want to work in the safest way possible.

After taking all of these steps, you may find that your workplace is still unsafe.  If that is the case, it may be time for you to move on.  While the labour market is tight and it can be difficult to find work, your safety is more important than any job.  In Canada, four workers die each day.  It’s not worth the risk to work for an employer that does not take your safety seriously.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Source: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/issues/day-mourning,  Photo From: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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